The Aeromarine/Robinson R-13 "Cootie"
Compiled by Kimble D. McCutcheon
Published 18 Jun 2017

The Robinson-designed R-13 "Cootie" was one of the world's first sport planes. It featured a unique one-off 30 hp 4-cylinder geared inline engine, which in many ways was state-of-the-art for its day.

Photographs in this article were provided by Tom Heitzman from his collection



Inglis Moore Uppercu was an engineer and lawyer who founded a series of successful Autocar, Packard and Cadillac automobile dealerships in New York and New Jersey. Uppercu was also a pilot who invested in the Boland Aeroplane and Motor Co. of New Jersey. When Frank Boland died, Uppercu took the company over in 1914 and renamed it the Aeromarine Plane and Motor Co.

Aeromarine designed and produced aircraft and engines, contributing several hundred aircraft to the WWI effort.


Hugh Armstrong Robinson, born in Neosho, Missouri on 13 May 1881, distinguished himself as a pilot, engineer, inventor and daredevil. He became the third person to fly after the Wright Brothers in an airplane of his own design and construction. Among his many inventions was the first successful parachute and the tailhook.

In 1910, Robinson became pilot and chief engineer for Curtiss Aviation in North Island, California. Here he continued a string of firsts and death-defying stunts. From 1917 through 1924, Robinson was the Aeromarine Plant Superintendent. In 1917, he designed the R-13 "Cootie" and the engine that powered it. Some believe the designation came from "Robinson" and his lucky number, 13.

Robinson test flew several configurations of the aircraft. The R-13 was destroyed in a non-fatal crash on Long Island. Although sometimes called the Aeromarine R-13, there is little evidence that this aircraft was anything other than Robinson's private venture, which he may have tried to market through Aeromarine.

No engine data is known to exist. Many of its features, such as propeller speed reduction, were advanced for the time. The engine construction appears to have little in common with other Aeromarine engines, so it was probably developed by Robinson for the R-13 project.