Hydroplanes I

March 11, 2011 0 Comments

Curtiss N-9

The Curtiss N-9 was a seaplane variant of the Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" military trainer used during the First World War. As a seaplane, the N-9 was equipped with a single central pontoon mounted under the fuselage. A small float was fitted under each wingtip. With the additional weight of the pontoon, a number of structural and aerodynamic changes were required, the design of which made use of wind tunnel data developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, meaning the N-9 was the first US Naval aircraft to incorporate wind tunnel data directly into its design. The wingspan was stretched an additional 10 ft ( m), the fuselage was lengthened, the tail surfaces were enlarged, and stabilizing fins were added to the top of the top wing. The N-9 was initially powered by a 100 hp (75 kW) Curtiss OXX-6 engine.

Curtiss was awarded an initial contract for 30 aircraft in August, 1916, and an additional 14 were ordered by the US Army, which maintained a small seaplane operation. It became quickly apparent that the aircraft was underpowered, so Curtiss replaces the engine with a 150 hp (112 kW) Hispano-Suiza, manufactured in the US under license by Wright-Martin's Simplex division (later Wright Aeronautical). The aircraft was redesignated N-9H.

A total of 560 N-9s were built during the war, most of which were "H" models. Only 100 were actually built by Curtiss. Most were built under license by the Burgess Company of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Fifty others were assembled after the war by the Navy at the Pensacola Naval Air Station from spare components and engines.

Over 2,500 US Navy pilots received their seaplane training in the N-9s. Besides this primary role, though, the aircraft was also used to help develop ship-borne aircraft operations during the war, especially the development of ship-mounted launch catapults. In 1917, several N-9s were provided to the Sperry Gyroscope Company for conversion to the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane configuration, flight testing the new autopilot components intended to be used in pilotless "aerial torpedoes".

The N-9s were retired by the Navy in 1927, as more modern trainers became available. Only one example of the type has survived, and is now a part of the National Air and Space Museum collection. Originally on display at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, it was transferred back to the Navy pending transport to NASM. It was fully restored in 1966 by the Naval Air Engineering Laboratory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Sopwith Baby

The Sopwith Baby was a British single-seat seaplane used by the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) from 1915. The Baby was a development of the two-seat Sopwith Schneider. Although the Schneider had won the Schneider trophy in 1914, the RNAS did not place a formal order until January 1915. The production version of the Baby differed little from the Schneider Trophy winner.

The Baby was also built by Blackburn Aircraft, Fairey, and Parnall in the United Kingdom. In Italy licensed manufacture was undertaken by SA Aeronautica Gio Ansaldo of Turin.

Altogether, about 700 Babys were built.

The Baby was used as a shipborne scout and bomber aircraft operating from larger ships such as seaplane carriers and cruisers, and smaller vessels such as naval trawlers and minelayers. It was even considered for operation from submarines. The main role of the Baby was to intercept German Zeppelin raids as far from Britain as possible.

Babys saw service with Canada, the US, France, Chile, Greece and Norway. In Norway Babys were built occasionally as replacements, with a few seeing service until 1930. Two of the 10 Sopwith Baby floatplanes that were acquired by the Norwegian Navy were brought to Svalbard in midsummer 1928 to participate in the search for the disappeared Norwegian Polar explorer Roald Amundsen, but were not used as intended.


Hansa-Brandenburg W.12

The Hansa-Brandenburg W.12 was a German biplane fighter floatplane of World War I. It was a development of Ernst Heinkel's previous KDW, adding a rear cockpit for an observer/gunner, and had an unusual inverted tailplane (which instead of standing up from the fuselage, hung below it) in order to give an uninterrupted field of fire.

The W.12's (under the Naval designation C3MG) served on the Western Front, based at the Naval air bases at Ostend and Zeebrugge. The aircraft had some success, and one shot down the British airship C.27.

In April 1918, a W.12 made an emergency landing in the neutral territory of the Netherlands, where it was interned and flight tested by the Dutch. In 1919 the government of the Netherlands bought a licence to build the aircraft. Thirty-five W.12's were subsequently manufactured by the Van Berkel company of Rotterdam as the W-A, serving with the Dutch Naval Air Service until 1933.


Felixstowe F2A

The F2A was a British-American hybrid design and highly effective as a patrol craft. Its career closely paralleled the Short Sunderland of a later date and firmly established the reputation of flying boats as weapons.

Commander John C. Porte of the Royal Navy was a longtime advocate of flying boats for naval service. In 1914 he ventured to the United States at the behest of aircraft builder Glenn Curtiss to work on American designs. Following the onset of World War I he returned home, firmly convinced that England could benefit by such craft. However, as commander of the Felixstowe station, he found Curtiss H.4s operating there unsatisfactory and set about modifying them. His subsequent F1 was found to be a better performer, so in 1917 he scaled up the new hull and fit it to the wings of a very large Curtiss H-12 Large America. The resulting hybrid was a superb aircraft for the time. It easily operated off the rough water conditions inherent in Northern Europe and, despite its bulk, was relatively maneuverable once airborne. This new craft was christened the Felixstowe F2A, and it arrived in the spring of 1917 just as Germany’s infamous U-boat campaign was peaking.

The Felixstowe flying boat acquired a well-earned reputation as the best flying-boat design of the war. Heavily armed with bombs and machine guns, it destroyed submarines and Zeppelins on several occasions. Moreover, it could readily defend itself against the numerous German floatplane fighters encountered over the North Sea. This fact was underscored on June 4, 1918, when four F2As beat off an attack by 14 Hansa-Brandenburg W.29s, shooting down six with no loss to themselves. In an attempt to improve the Felixstowe’s performance, a new version, the F3, was developed. It featured longer wings and twice the bomb load but handled poorly and was never popular. The excellent F2As, meanwhile, remained on active duty for a decade following the war.

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