Curtiss "Hawks" Under Construction in Sunland-Tujunga


Wallace K. Lee
Wallace K. Lee standing in front of finished replica of a circa 1925 Curtiss P-1 "Hawk", commissioned for placement in the US Army Museum. (picture circ. 1981)
Wallace K. Lee
Wallace K. Lee taking a break inside the finished frame for the Curtiss P-1 "Hawk" project. (picture circ. 1981)

Most Sunland-Tujunga residents go out of town to work on airplane construction. But Wallace Lee is the exception. He has come to Sunland-Tujunga where he is building five Curtiss P-1 Hawks, airplanes from an earlier era.

Using original plans, materials and methods, he is recreating the airplanes from the ground up. All are already sold.

The Curtiss P-1 Hawk was the outstanding pursuit airplane of its day — 1924 through 1930. It was used chiefly by the Army and Navy and was able to reach speeds of 175 miles an hour. The Naval version was modified to enable it to land on carriers of that day. During World War II it was used with slight modifications as a trainer. Describing the "aero plane" the handbook of instructions and maintenance from Curtiss states in part, "It is believed that the "Hawk" now represents the most maneuverable military plane of its size and weight in the world. The climb, speed at altitude and ceiling are not excelled by pursuit machines in any country." When completed the original motors will be placed in the planes. The wings are being built elsewhere, explains Lee.

With a varied career as artist, engineer, designer, and machinist, Lee has found a natural affinity for construction of not only antique airplanes but also the handcrafting of special parts for such aircraft. He also restores antique cars.

Born in Salt Lake City, Lee considered a career in art, especially sculpting. But when he got out of the service in 1950 and began to hunt for a job, he was offered one at Northrop and discovered that the building of airplanes held a special fascination for him.

He has spent about 50 years in the business, including work for the Tallman Movie land of the Air. (Foothill Leader)




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