The first Curtiss Hawks for the U.S. Navy were nine F6C-1s, direct equivalents of the Army P-1s, and were delivered late in 1925. The designation meant a fighter model (F), the sixth ordered from Curtiss. The –1 identified the initial configuration. These were used mostly by the U.S. Marines from shore bases as they were not equipped for carrier operations. The last four, however, were completed as F6C-2 with arrester hooks and high-impact landing gear for operation from the Navy’s single carrier of the time. These led to an order for 35 outwardly identical F6C-3s. All models through the –3 could be fitted with twin floats and, for a while in 1927-28, one squadron, the famous “Red Rippers,” used F6C-3 seaplanes. This was the Navy’s last use of floatplane fighters.
The Curtiss Hawk line of fighters for the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and export was one of the best-known single-seat biplanes in the years between the two world wars and is still a favorite with model builders. The many configuration changes that the Hawk displayed over its very long — for those days — production life from 1923 through 1936 adds to the technical interest shown in the line.
Throughout the homebuilt movement many designs have a strong resemblance to others. The all-time toppers in this area are the Wittman “Tailwind” and the Nesmith “Cougar.”
Lyrical writers who comment lovingly on the glories of the era of the big rigid airships – Zeppelins, to give the name of the German originator to all of them – frequently call them “Silver Giants” or something similar. Whatever the noun, the adjective “silver” always seems to get in there.
Those of us who own or rent airplanes are aware of the registration numbers, or N numbers, that each must carry. Few, however, realize that those numbers are not cast in concrete, but are transferable. An owner can cancel a number that came with his plane and replace it with one of his choice — provided, of course, that someone else isn’t using it.
Without exception, all of the floats seen on licensed civil seaplanes today are of the twin-float type. The single-float type popular with the U.S. Navy when it still had seaplanes, with small floats under the wingtips as on flying boats, has never been approved for civil operation.
One of the most memorable airplanes in the U.S. Navy inventory is the little Curtiss F9C “Sparrowhawk” of 1931-36. Aside from its distinctive gull-winged configuration and small size for a contemporary fighter, the F9Cs are best remembered for their unique role as auxiliaries to large rigid airships. They were actually carried aboard the Navy’s airships Akron and Macon.
In the last issue, we looked at the SA-1 (Ship’s Aeroplane) developed by the U.S. Naval Aircraft Factory at the end of World War I. Although an oldie with many features that were outdated even for 1919, it deserves more attention, as it has many features that are applicable to today’s homebuilts, both in the Ultralight and Experimental Categories.
A major design objective of the Naval Aircraft Factory SA-1 of late 1918 was to have as simple a structure as possible. This was achieved, but almost to the point of being crude in some areas. The structure, particularly in the fuselage, has some features well worth considering for today’s ultralights and the lower end of the “licensed” class.