|The Curtiss SC-1 "Seahawk" built by Curtiss-Wright Corporation was
designed to meet the need for a reconnaissance seaplane that could be
launched from U.S. Navy battleships and cruisers. Designed as a
single-seat aircraft the SC-1 could theoretically hold its'
own against enemy fighters.
Intended as a replacement for the Vought
SO2U Kingfisher and the Curtiss SOC3 "Seamew", the
SC-1's development commenced in 1942. A contract was awarded for two
XSC-1 prototypes and five SC-1's for service evaluation. The
prototype flew on February 16, 1944. All seven machines had flown
April 28, 1944. Orders were placed for 950 aircraft, but later
to 566 aircraft because of the Victory in the
Pacific. (Some data indicates that 112 Seahawks were delivered in 1944,
and another 444 in 1945, for a total of 568 aircraft.)
Built in at the Curtiss-Wright plant in
Columbus, Ohio, the SC-1 was
initially fitted out with a fixed
wheel undercarriage. It was then was ferried to Naval bases where the
The first operational units were assigned to the USS Guam CB-2 in
October 1944. The first reported action involving an SC-1 was in
Borneo, in June of 1945.
The SC-1 was liked by some pilots
and disliked by others, but
generally well accepted. It could out-climb an F6F "Hellcat" to 6,000
ft. and out-turn the F8F "Bearcat".
During the height of the airplane's
career, crews aboard ship looked with
pleasure at the "Seahawks" aft on the catapults as their "Quarterdeck
Losses with the "Seahawk" were high,
caused mostly by the extremely
hazardous conditions in which they operated. With too hard a water
landing the engine would drop, causing the propeller to cut through the
Several mishaps occurred due to a faulty auto-pilot system. Aircraft
and pilots were lost due to unknown landing accidents. It wasn't until
one pilot "walked away", that it was discovered that the auto-pilot was
taking over on landings. As a result, all automatic pilot systems were
made inoperative on all SC's. (For more information see U.S.S. Little
Rock "Collision at Sea and other Underway Hazards" page.)
It continued in service for a number of years after the
war as trainers, eventually being replaced by helicopters.
The SC-1 was the last of the scout
observation types and was also the last single-engine float plane built
by Curtiss-Wright Corporation. It was also the most
highly developed float plane with vastly improved performance over
Power, range and armament had doubled its usefulness. It was highly
maneuverable, had two forward firing .50 cal. guns,
large flaps and automatic leading edge slats for improved slow speed
characteristics, and radar carried on the underside of the starboard
wing proved highly successful during search missions. Space needed
for stowage of the aircraft aboard ship was minimized by folding the
wings back manually, making
the overall width equal to the span of the horizontal tail surfaces.
(Click drawing for a larger view)
||Paint Scheme: Post Jan
Speed - Cruise:
Speed - Max:
Time to 20,000 ft:
Take off weight:
Weight with Armament:
315 mph at 28,600 ft.
238 mph at sea level
625 miles (at 125 mph)
Wright R-1820-62 Cyclone 9
air-cooled radial design
280 sq. ft.
2 - 50 cal. Machine Guns,
1 - 650 lb. Bomb
|Upper surfaces: Non-specular
Sea Blue (#35042).
Mid surfaces: Non-specular Intermediate Blue (#35164).
Lower surfaces: Non-specular Insignia White (#37875)
glossy Seablue (# 15042),
with white numbers and letters & red bar
in U.S. insignia in four positions.
|Serial Numbers (*)
(*) Exact numbers
of each model are not available with existing
data. However, it would seem that the
following totals are good
approximations for each aircraft type built:
XSC-1: 3, SC-1: 563, SC-2: 10
Note: The SC-2 was a 2-seat airplane.
Curtiss SC-1 Pre-Flight, Launch and Recovery Photos
SC-1 on catapult with wings extended.
(Note tie-down gear.)
Pre-launch briefing ?
SC-1 just prior to leaving catapult
Curtiss SC-1 in flight
Official US Navy Photo
SC-1 taxi-ing in smooth water
Official US Navy Photo
Making a rough water approach alongside USS Alaska
Official US Navy Photo K3725
An SC-1 approaching towed sled
SC-1 on sled alongside USS Alaska (Engine is
Official US Navy Photo K3747
On the sled. Preparing for recovery
SC-1 being hoisted by ship's crane
(USS Wilkes-Barre CL-103)
SC-1 stowed on launcher with wings folded.
SC-1 being launched from an un-named ship.
Photos Of SC1's On the USS Little Rock
(Click on photo to enlarge)
A USS Little Rock SC-1
taxis alongside for pick-up
(Photo from ship's paper "The Arkansas Traveler")
(Read Walde Lindemann's story below.)
in SC-1 cockpit
on SC-1 wing.
USS Little Rock CL 92
pilot with crew
SC-1 on Catapult
SC-1's Victor Division (Photo #1)
Standing: Unknown, Thorsby, Unknown,
Pate, Chief Storms, Chief (?),
John Dolan, Ens. Robert Friedlein (*)
Unknown, Walde Lindemann,
Unknown, Unknown, Duffy, DuFrane,
Photo #1 courtesy
of Walde Lindemann
|An interesting note:
Photo #1 on the left
was sent to us by ship-
mate Walde Lindemann.
Standing in the rear, at
the far right is Ens. Robert
Friedlein, an SC-1 pilot.
Photo #2 on the right
was sent to us by Thomas
Friedlein, the brother of SC-1
pilot Robert Friedlein.
However Photo #2 doesn't
show ENS Friedlein!
(So, we've emailed a higher
resolution copy of Photo
#1 to Thomas Friedlein.)
(*) Note: Ens. Robert Friedlein unfortunately was killed in an accident while flying
off the USS Missouri on 01 Oct 1948. His obituary can be seen on this
website's "Honor Roll".
SC-1's Victor Division (Photo #2)
Standing: Unknown, Thorsby, Unknown,
Pate, Chief Storms, Chief
Kneeling: Unknown, Walde Lindemann,
Unknown, Duffy, DuFrane,
#2 courtesy of Thomas Friedlein
the brother of Robert Friedlein (*).
Walde Lindemann ADAN with his
scratch-built model of an SC-1
|HOW I BECAME INTERESTED IN AVIATION
by WALDE LINDEMANN
My interest in aviation all started at a young age when I heard my
uncle Capt. Ernie Pretsch was a pilot and had a flight training and
crop dusting business at Roosevelt Field in the 1930s. During the
beginning of WWII I carved and finished fighter planes out of solid
balsa wood from kits. I later built rubber band and larger flying
models powered by miniature gas engines.
On February 26,1946 at the age of 17, joined the US Navy. After boot
camp I was sent to the Philadelphia Navy yard to serve aboard a light
cruiser, the USS Little Rock, CL 92. Little did I know the ship had
two Curtiss SC-1 Seahawks aboard and sitting on catapults. The aviation
unit was a separate division on the ship. After a short time I
requested to be transferred to the aviation unit but had to wait for an
opening. Finally it came through and I became an " Airdale", and in my
Working and studying hard, within a year I became an Aviation Mechanist
Mate Striker and plane captain. I now had my own Seahawk to care for.
As plane captain I was responsible for preparing the aircraft for
flight. I fIrst had to turn the four bladed propeller to distribute the
oil in the engine. I then sat in the cockpit with my check list and
checked that all the moveable surfaces, flaps, elevator, ailerons, and
rudder were working. I then put a shotgun cartridge in to the breech.
Switch on, throttle in the right position and you hope the engine fIres
off. The engine is warmed up, all gauges and the magnetos are checked
and the throttle run to full RPM for a few seconds. If all is OK the
pilot climbs into the cockpit, does a brief check, and gives a thumb up
ready for takeoff. The ship then heads into the wind with the catapult
at a 15 degree angle over the water. With full power on the pilot gets
word from the signal man and on the upward roll of the ship the plane
is released. A 5" power cartridge would fIre near the end of the
catapult and the aircraft would be launched out over the water.
After its mission the aircraft would head back and prepare to land.
Again the ship would turn into the wind cutting the waves to form a
smooth surface for the aircraft to land behind the ship. A netted sled
is lowered from the ship and is caught by a hook under the front main
float of the aircraft. A crane on the ship lowers a hook that is
attached onto the aircraft by the pilot. The aircraft is then lifted
back onto the catapult. The Seahawk was built in Columbus, Ohio with
fixed landing gear and then flown to a seaplane base to have the main
and wing tip floats installed. The floats were manufactured by the EDO
Float Co. at College Point, NY. EDO was one of the many Long Island
companies that manufactured parts for aircraft made here.
When I had time and when we were in port I took flying lessons at a
local airport in Norfolk, V A. I received my pilots' license and on
long weekends flew into Roosevelt Field. The plane was an Aeronca
Chief, two place. Later I flew a four place 150 HP Stinson Voyager and
float planes at Reynolds Channel in Long Beach.
I left the service in 1949. My ship was decommissioned and in 1960
recommissioned as a Missile Cruiser, CLG 4. It was the only Cleveland
Class light cruiser left and after 15 years of service was
decommissioned again. Some time later the city of Buffalo, NY bought it
from the government and it became a museum attraction at the Buffalo
Naval Marine Park on the Erie River.
After the service I changed from aviation to carpentry and retired in
1990. I became a volunteer at the Cradle of Aviation Museum and helped
restore many of the airplanes that are on display in the museum. For
ten years I also flew Y4 scale radio control flying models. Yes, I
built an 18 % scale Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk. I thank my friend Herb
Wickman, my draftsman, also a volunteer at the Cradle who drew the
plans for my Seahawk. I also had to build the catapult for my plane, 18
% scale, 14 ft. long.
The above article was originally published in the Long Island Early Fliers Club in the JAN / FEB 2005 issue.
SC-1 being retrieved
by ship's crane
SC-1 on catapult while CL 92
is moored pierside in Venice.
Note that plane's port wing
is in stowed position.
SC-1 making approach to
towed sled. Note extended catapult with crew member directing approach
ship's wake used to
SC-1 on port catapult
secured (hopefully) for
Ens. Logan on float of his SC-1
Motor Whale Boat from ship prepares to tow
Ens. Logan is standing
on SC-1 float.
A great photo
of an SC1 launch from USS Little Rock CL 92. The photo shows the plane
at the moment it leaves the catapult cradle. Note the crew covering
their ears as protection from the noise of the SC1 engine and the
photo of an SC1 launch
from LITTLE ROCK. This photo shows the plane clearing the lifelines a
moment after the it left the catapult.
The USS Little Rock's Motor Whale Boat
prepares to tow
an inverted SC-1.
This is possibly the plane flown by Ensign Logan as noted in the Walt
Nebiker photos above.
SC-1 Accidents (non-USS Little Rock related)
|The photos below were obtained from the National Naval Aviation
U.S Naval Air Station,
(No information pertaining to the circumstances or personnel involved
was available from the museum.)
SC-1 Crash in Cornfield
SC-1 Crash in Cornfield
Wrecked SC-1 on Flatbed
Wrecked SC-1 in Field
SC-1's in the News
Seaplane Rescues F6F
Small SC-1 Outstrips Larger Planes
Although the SC-1 Seahawk
is not supposed to be a rough- weather plane, it rescued a downed
Hellcat pilot from the turbulent and cold Atlantic off Nantucket Island
recently while a Coast Guard PBY and a Navy B-17 from VX-4 orbited
pilot of the rescue plane, Lt.(jg) B.A. Hoffman was from the aviation
unit of the U.S.S. Little Rock CL 92.
He was taking off from Quonset Point ramp when he heard the rescue
reports coming in, so he proceeded to the scene. He made the landing
and rescued the pilot who was near death from exposure.
rescue by the little cruiser float plane was a source of satisfaction
to its proponents, who sometimes feel observation aviation is a Navy
stepchild, according to the Little
Rock aviation unit.
Squadron Serves Fleet
Seaplane Makes First GCA
VO-2, ATLANTIC --- The observation pilot-plane "pool" idea for
the fleet has gotten off to a good start with this newly formed
squadron providing detachments for numerous operations.
The Mediterranean Fleet, the USS Worcester shakedown, Second Task
Fleet operations and cruises by the Missouri, Little Rock, Providence and Albany have provided "jobs" for the
squadron. Under the new plan, instead of each cruiser and
battleship having its own observation planes and pilots, they "borrow"
them from VO-2 when they need them.
Squadron pilots are busy with instrument and
cross-country training at its Norfolk base. This training came in handy
recently when two SC-1 pilots were caught in instrument weather near
Quonset and had to come in by GCA at Boston. This is believed the first
"live run" GCA approach ever completed by VO-type aircraft.
men who flew USS
Charles "Charlie" R. , LTJG (See photo below)
Frank, Jules ("Senior Aviator") (See Schultz)
Friedlein, Robert "Bob", Ens. (See Walde Lindemann photos above.)
Hoffman, B. F., LTJG / LT (See "Arkansas
Traveler" 09 Jul 47, 17 Sep 47)
Logan, Ens. (See Nebiker photos above.)
Merriman, W. R. , Ens (See Breslin's comments)
report and photos)
Sandoval, E. E., LT (See "Arkansas Traveler" 17 Sep 47)
Smith, H. L., Ens. (See "Arkansas Traveler" 09 Jul 47)
Wheeler, O. E., LT (See Christmas Menu 1947)
The above photo, in the 1945-1949 Cruise Book, reads
who died in the line of duty."
After extensive research we have learned that Lt(jg) Fitzpatrick died
in a crash of his SC-1
on New Year's Eve day 1946 off the coast of Rehoboth Beach, New Jersey
(For more info see "Accidents,
Collisions and other Underway Hazards" page
From: Al Yoder, FC2/C,
"I don't remember Lt. Fitzpatrick being killed. I have the names of two
other pilots, Lt. B.F. Hoffman & Lt. E.E. Sandoval. These two
got lost and landed on the calm ocean off Newport. I think I remember
were located somehow and the Destroyers and Little Rock took off at
speed. The impressive thing was that after an hour the Rock passed all
the Destroyers and arrived at the downed aircraft, & recovered
I don't know any other details."
20 Jun 08
From: John Breslin, S1/C 1945-46
".... from my "Air, Aft" lookout post behind the highest aft director,
witnessed and described, (on SP phone), our only complete aircraft loss
during my time aboard. Ensign W. R. Merryman was landing one of
our scout planes south of Cuba, on the smoothed-over water surface our
always created for landings, by making a slowed-down sliding
turn. As Ens. Merryman was taxiing up towards our towed recovery
netted sled, his
plane suddenly nosed over, engine still turning and tail straight up in
the air. The pilot was pitched forward out of his cockpit, into a
clear sea, teeming with hundreds of visible sharks. I reported
sharks immediately on my SP phone, but they were also clearly visible
all parts of our ship. The OD immediately ordered the rescue
whaleboat's crew not to enter the water, but when the swimming pilot
was not able to grasp
the boathook, my buddy and bunk-neighbor, (whose rack was directly
the aisle), immediately dove over his bow and swam to the pilot who was
losing consciousness. Grasping the pilot's life vest
"Sully", or Cox. W. M. Sullivan, swam closer to the whaleboat and then
helped push the limp pilot aboard, as others pulled him in.
did get a Life Saving Medal for risking a plunge into shark-infested
against orders." (Click HERE for more
details and photos.)
From: Anthony Mastroianni,
S1/C C Div. 1945-46
Regarding the 8/4/45 loss of our plane.... I remember that
incident quite well as I was on duty on bridge and witnessed the
accident. Prior to the accident an object was reported in the water.
(The) crew manned the 40mm to sink object. It was shortly after that
incident, that as we were preparing to retrieve our aircraft, the pilot
approached the ship to land, hit a wave, and capsized. Being on duty on
the bridge I was called as part of rescue crew that manned the whale
boat to retrieve pilot. On that day the weather was fine.
29 Apr 2013
From: Don Slack, S1/C 1946-47
"As near as I can remember, Lt. Fitzpatrick was lost when he landed
being catapulted off the aft stern practicing take-offs and landings in
13 Jun 08
From: Arthur Schultz,
CDR. MC, USN (Ship's
From a letter dated Oct, 29, 1945: (While in Puerto Rico... )
"I had a
unique experience, and one that will remain with me as long as I
live. Jules Frank - our senior aviator took me up with him in a
two seater plane called an SNJ - an advanced trainer with a 500 hp
motor and retractable landing gear..... during our flight we used
up 65 gallons of 91 octane gasoline at 30 cents per gallon to the Navy
- and all for the asking for me."
The Men Who Maintained our SC-1's
Your input is vital to this article.
Some thoughts from others about the Curtiss SC1
"LAST OF A BREED"
"Aloha, Charley, Aloha"
by Patricia Groves
November 1974 Issue
Although U.S. Navy observers were present at the Army's first military
trials in september, 1908, until 1910 the official Navy Department
position was that "the development of an aeroplane has not progressed
sufficiently at this time for use in the Navy." (1)
Then, on Nov. 14, 1910, when Gene Ely flew a Curtiss pusher off a
specially constructed deck on the cruiser Birmingham and landed safely
ashore, the secretary of the Navy was finally persuaded to recommend to
Congress the "maintenance of an aerial corps."
Two months later, Ely landed a Curtiss pusher on the deck of the USS
Pennsylvania in San Francisco Bay, and stayed aboard for nearly an hour
before returning safely to the San Francisco Peninsula. Then, within a
matter of days, Glenn Curtiss made the first successful flight with an
airplane capable of "taking off and alighting upon the water."
By February 17, the Pennsylvania was anchored off San Diego, and
Curtiss felt sufficiently comfortable with the technique to fly up to
and land alongside the cruiser, and be hoisted aboard. His
"hydro-aeroplane" was then lowered back into the water, and after
restart (in itself a major accomplishment), it was flown back to
Curtiss' winter quarters on North Island.
Even before these early experiments in launching airplanes from ships,
the world's naval authorities were divided into two camps. One held
that it would be better to make a ship self-sufficient by providing
space for the launching and landing of seaplanes on battleships, with
aviators aboard each ship, while the other faction felt it would be
better to have regular "seaplane carriers" which would provide ship
squadrons with an air service.
But this posed a problem. It would be illogical to expect a cruiser in
action to slow down in order to launch or hoist in an airplane. Yet,
having capital ships independent would, on the other hand, keep from
concentrating all air equipment on one ship which could be destroyed by
enemy action, depriving the whole squadron of an air service. On the
horns of a dilemma, the Navy explored its options.
While the aircraft carrier (per se) evolved with a glamour and
tradition peculiar to its circumstances, the air arm of capital ships
of the fleet traveled a somewhat oblique course.
After a soggy false start, Lt. T.G. Ellyson and a Curtiss AH-3 were
launched from a compressed air catapult on Nov. 12, 1912. Although
speedy recovery of an aircraft while under way at sea would pose a
problem until 1933, launching techniques continued to improve through
experience and the technological surge that came with World War I. By
the middle Twenties, the more efficient black powder catapult was
perfected, and installed on various warships during major overhaul.
Early air units were then assigned from various land-based Observation
and Scouting (or VO/VS) squadrons.
Not only was it an insult to the "purity" of ship design, but the
installation of aviation paraphernalia (catapult, crane) necessarily
resulted in dislocation of sailors and their equipment. And naval
aviators were (and still are) referred to as "brown shoes" while real
sailors were in the "black shoe" Navy.
On April 18, 1933, the first successful sea-underway recovery came when
Lt. G. A. Ott landed an O2U alongside the USS Maryland, and taxied up
onto a "sled" (somewhat like a cargo net) being dragged by the
battleship. (2) When a hook on his float was caught in the webbing, Ott
cut power and let the airplane settle back and be carried along with
the ship. A cargo hook was lowered, and the plane hoisted aboard.
During the Thirties, U.S. Navy aircraft, equipment, and launch and
recovery techniques improved and changed as mission requirements slowly
solidified. Due to a shortage of shore-based facilities in the Pacific,
the aircraft carrier developed. There was a brief but disastrous
flirtation with dirigibles (which also carried airplanes aboard).
Land-based equipment was acquired for expanding naval air stations. And
then there were the shipborne seaplanes of the VO/VS squadrons in the
Fleet Battle and Scouting Forces.
When the European powers squared off against one another in the opening
days of World War II, world naval strategy was pretty much a
continuation of the 1914-1918 War. Battleships, although vulnerable to
attack within range of land-based planes, were still considered "the
backbone of the fleet," and superior on the high seas. (3)
But, by mid-1941, it became all too apparent that with or without
battleships, a surface fleet couldn't perform its traditional role
unless it commanded the air above the sea. Some two weeks after the
U-boat sinking of the British battleship, HMS Barham, in the
Mediterranean, Japanese carrier-based aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor,
clobbering much of the American battleship inventory.
By this time, U.S. cruisers and battleships carried from two to four
seaplanes assigned to various Observation and Scouting squadrons.
Already a curious breed, the VO/VS squadrons became more so after
December. After Pearl Harbor. these warships then operated as a unit of
ship and airplane. And aviation duties of the men aboard were in
addition to regular shipboard assignments, making them, in a sense,
neither fish nor fowl. (4)
For most of the war, the VO/VS squadrons performed their "eyes of the
fleet" duties in standard Navy floatplane reconnaissance and scouting
aircraft - the lumbering two-seat Curtiss SOCs and Vought OS2Us. But
since these slower airplanes were vulnerable, the Navy issued a bid
invitation on a single-seat, scouting float plane which would perform
much like a fighter. (5)
In June, 1942, Curtiss-Wright Corp. submitted a proposal for an
airplane with combined armament and performance sufficient to fly
combat against most aircraft, yet still slow enough to shadow the enemy
fleet for long periods of time. Called the Seahawk, its prototype (the
XSC-1) was first flown Feb. 16, 1944, and production was under way by
that summer. (6)
Introduced into squadron service in October, 1944, the SC-1s patrolled
the skies over the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, searching for bogies
above and below, spotting for naval gunfire, and performing air-sea
rescue duties. If troops being convoyed overseas viewed such seaplanes
catapulted off battleships and cruisers as a curiosity, so did the
When war became peace, the VO/VS squadrons rapidly decreased in number.
By April, 1949, the last one was decommissioned, and those SC-1s that
remained (out of 567 produced) were scrapped, moth-balled or assigned
to training units.
But, in the meantime, many SC-1s and aviators had been catapulted into
the wild blue, and scooped up out of the sea. One was Lt(jg) Charles E.
Roth, USN, who, by the time he reported to the USS Providence in 1947,
was fully qualified to wear a black shoe on one foot and a brown one on
the other. (7)
An Annapolis graduate and assistant navigator on the Augusta at war's
end, he signed up for flight training. Pleased that a qualified deck
officer should show so much interest in one of the lesser sciences, the
Navy Department granted his wish. Charley was sent to flying school and
indoctrinated into the whole nine yards.
But tradition dies hard in the Navy. When it became apparent that the
potential admiral showed no inclination to get back into full-time
black shoes, the ingrate was dropped into the first available VO
squadron to ponder the error of his ways.
But with Charley, a tour on the USS Providence (with its SC-1s) was
fine. He liked ships and he liked airplanes. Shoes were just something
to keep the holes in your socks from showing.
In spite of its ungainly appearance, the SC-1 was maneuverable, easy to
fly, and in slow flight - magnifique! Although imbued with a forgiving
nature, it was, nevertheless, an airplane one had to stay with all of
the time. Any fiddling around with your E6B, for instance, resulted in
unusual attitudes for the unwary. (Autopilots had been removed.)
On a water takeoff, all one could see was cowl, because up front a
buxom R-1820-62 engine was turbo-supercharged and ready. You say you
want to go? OK. Give it full right rudder, aim 20° to the right of
the wind, and 1,350 horses will take you in a screaming arc to the
left. Surprising, perhaps, but a joy to power-starved VO/VS pilots
whose only alternative was the lackluster OS2U, so under powered that in
calm water, it was in danger of being passed by the average swimmer.
On the day an SC-1 pilot makes his first sea-underway recovery, he is
performing before divine Providence - and the crew as well.
The first thing is to find the ship. Preferably, your ship. But,
assuming the navigation has been reasonably accurate and the gentlemen
on board truthfully conveyed their intended course (a nagging doubt
that is not entirely without foundation), then that gray sliver riding
a sea of blue below is your target. By her hull number (82) shall ye
know her. It is indeed the Providence, and how could a 610-foot length
of steel seem so small?
Dropping down and circling at about 300 feet overhead will be
interpreted as either a request to be shot out of the sky or, a request
to come aboard. In the absence of black puffs of smoke, you may assume
that preparations are under way to accept you, and the captain will so
signify by running up the "C" (or "Charley") flag.
Below you, 10,000 tons of ship is traveling at about 15 knots, or
standard speed, and this must be reduced to eight knots before you can
hope to get aboard. So first, the captain will turn the ship 45 degrees
out of the wind to the right. After he's done that, down comes the
Then, just as you're flying alongside him, he'll start a 90° turn
through the wind. What you're going to do now is whack that airplane
around and make a 360 + 90° turn as he's doing his 90. And, as he's
turning, he's translating - skidding, knocking the tops off the waves,
so that if everything works out perfectly, he winds up 45° out of
the wind to the left, and you're landing into the wind across his slick.
When you touch down, you're lined up right about amidships and aimed
right at him. As you skip across the wake, the numbers will get bigger
and bigger and bigger until all you can see is 82 staring you right in
Then, at just the right moment, you will stop, because if you don't you
will go off into the rough and everyone will jeer. So stop, and turn
into the ship, and begin chasing down the sled they're towing.
Now, even though it's about this time that the cooks usually come out
and throw garbage over the side, do you take this personally? No,
indeed, you just keep watching for that sled.
It's about 12-15 feet long and 3 feet wide, canvas-backed with heavy
rope cross straps. Taxi up onto the sled, and cut power - for only the
daring keep their engine running. Then, as the airplane drifts back,
the hook on the bottom of your float will engage one of the ropes. If
not, immediately begin chasing that ship across the wide blue sea.
But, assuming success, pull the release on the top of the cowl, and two
doors will open to reveal the hook-up mechanism. Although you're
bouncing along, stand up in the cockpit - gracefully please - and reach
up for the hook that the bo'sun is aiming right at your head. Grab it
and hook onto the plane.
As the crane reels you in, you may think you've aged 30 or 40 years,
but the whole procedure has taken only about three or four minutes.
Occasionally, especially in a rough sea, you'll bounce out of the sled.
If you think eight knots is slow, look at a ship that's doing eight
knots while you're doing zero, and you know you're 2,000 miles from the
nearest land. Now that's lonesome!
Immediately, you'll have this terrible desire to get that engine going.
And you're faced with a hot engine start. Well, there's a cartridge
starter on the airplane, and you've got some shotgun-like shells with
you. Even though the airplane is bobbing up and down like a cork and
that ship is getting smaller and smaller in the distance, remember,
they're going to keep right on driving that boat. So get out one of
those cartridges and somehow find your knife.
With nerves of steel, carefully remove the wad that's on the front of
the cartridge. Now, peel the cartridge halfway down, and throw out half
of the powder. Put the reduced charge into the breech mechanism for the
starter. See it? It's right there, right straight in front of you. But
There's a safety diaphragm that's built into the breech mechanism, and
it's supposed to contain everything in case over-pressuring occurs when
it's fired. Should that happen, the diaphragm is supposed to keep the
breech from blowing and coming back, and, while not exactly mortally
wounding you - good-bye fun and games.
So, before you fire, a suggestion - wiggle around in the cockpit; get
out of the way as best you can, and pray as you slip in that charge.
Then, if all goes well, as you fire, the engine will start up right
away, and you can begin chasing down the ship that's now a tiny speck
upon the horizon.
1. Henry Woodhouse, Textbook of Naval Aeronautics
(New York City, Century Co., 1917.)
2. NAVAIR 00-80P-1, United States Naval Aviation, 1910-1970
(Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1970.)
3. Peter Padfield, The Battleship Era (New York City, David McKay Co.,
4. Fred C. Dickey, Jr., "The SlingShot Flyers," (Journal of the
American Aviation Historical Society (Vol. 6, No. 2, 1961.) Only adding
fuel to the Devil's Island syndrome associated with the VO/VS
squadrons, was the paperwork set-up of these units. Without any close
attachment to ordinary naval aviation channels, they often experienced
great difficulty getting resupplied. The VO/ VS squadrons (according to
Dickey) became adept at filling their own requisitions. When the
Providence was inventoried in 1947, it was found to contain, among
other oddities, a box of parts for the left flaps of several SNJs.
5. Thetford & Maycock, Aircraft of the Fighting Powers, Vol. VI
(England: Harborough Publishing Co., Ltd., 1945.)
6. Curtiss-Wright Corp., Airplane Division Report No. 20499 (Second
Revision) Nov. 24, 1944.7. Charles E. Roth
If you had a part in the SC-1's life on the USS Little Rock, let either Woody Donaldson
or Art Tilley
know. We'd like to add your photo(s) or comments to this page.