NC-4 Flying Boat

08 Nov 18:

"The NC-4 was a Curtiss NC flying boat that was the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, albeit not non-stop. The aircraft was designed by Glenn Curtiss and his team, and manufactured by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, with the hull built by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Corporation in Bristol, Rhode Island. The design requirement emerged during WWI, the US Navy needed anti-submarine aircraft on the Eastern side of the Atlantic and a safe way to get them there, hence the need for an aircraft that could cross the Atlantic on its own versus being shipped across.
In May 1919, a crew of United States Navy aviators flew the NC-4 from New York State to Lisbon, Portugal, over the course of 19 days. This included time for stops of numerous repairs and for crewmen's rest, with stops along the way in Massachusetts, Nova Scotia (on the mainland), Newfoundland, and twice in the Azores Islands. Then its flight from the Azores to Lisbon completed the first transatlantic flight between North America and Europe, and two more flights from Lisbon to northwestern Spain to Plymouth, England, completed the first flight between North America and Great Britain."

We've been to see her in the Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum and she is in beautiful shape.

(Image Credit: Small Boat Restoration)

From Catalogue Raisonne:
Name: [NC-4 Seaplane Hull]
Type: Navy Curtiss Flying Boat
Designed by: Curtiss, Glenn
Contract: 1918
Construction: Wood, Sitka Spruce hull planks, Ash
LOA: 45' (13.72m)
Beam: 10' (3.05m)
Hull Weight: 2,800 lbs
Displ.: 28,00 lbs (1,270 kg)
Propulsion: Four 400 hp Liberty V-12 motors
Built for: U.S. Navy
Current owner: Smithsonian Institution, on loan to National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL (last reported 2018 at age 99)

Trivia bits:
-The designation NC came from the cooperative effort of the Navy (N) and Curtiss (C) to build the aircraft.
-Two other Nancies (NCs) attempted the flight, but did not complete it. NC-1 was lost at sea, crew rescued. NC-3 was forced to land just outside the Azores and was damaged, the crew sailed her into port through gale force winds and 30-40 foot seas.
-The flight covered 3936 miles with 52 hours 31 minutes of flight time over 19 days.
-NC-4's first flight was April 31, 1919, only days before the departure.
-Chief Machinist Mate Eugene Rhoads was a pilot as well, but not a designated Naval Aviator. He went on to a fine career as a pilot.
-Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, a builder of the finest ocean crossing boats, built the hull and the wingtip pontoons.
-The engines' fuel supply is gravity fed. Small propellers behind the center Liberty V-12 engines are part of a windmill pump system that pumps fuel from the main tanks up to the gravity tank in the upper wing. There is also a hand pump.

-The aircraft had an intercommunications system.
-NC-4 is so cool that she has a march written for her!

From the HMCo Construction records, several flying boat hulls on order as well.

On the bow there is a night landing flare system, with a button inside the Navigator's compartment to fire them. There are several reports of the flares being inadvertently fired during ground service.

Several designs were considered for the hull step, the final decision was to have one step versus multiple steps. The hull is also very narrow for flying boats of the time, a weight saver that reduced drag as well. The aircraft also has a radical design for the tail, struts versus a continuation of the fuselage, another weight saver.

(Video Credit: Office of Information, US Naval Photographic Center)

Take a virtual flight in NC-4, through the magic of Garry's Mod game physics sandbox.

08 Feb 19:

NC-4 arrived in Plymouth, England on May 31, 1919 and tied up at the Barbican in Sutton Harbour. NC-4's arrival was scheduled as a tribute to the Mayflower voyage, there is a commemorative plaque placed next to the Mayflower Steps, where the Pilgrims set off for the New World in 1620. Our friend Doug E. snapped this photo of the plaque, and is on the prowl to take another. The area is currently under renovation for the 400th Anniversary celebration in 2020 of the Mayflower voyage.

13 Feb 19:

"During 1912 Naval Constructor Richardson conducted a series of model basin tests on the planing properties of seaplane floats and hulls which have proved to be perhaps the most important and fruitful research ever undertaken by the Navy. Richardson for the first time showed the effect of the form of the float on its water performance, and from these tests he evolved the lines of United States Navy seaplane floats and hulls which have since that date made them a standard for others to follow. Richardson's tests showed the advantages of Vee bottom, long easy form, spray strips, and single step with sharp rise of after body."

21 Feb 19:

So now you can build your own!

(Resource Credit: The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corp. National Naval Aviation Museum NC-4 Files. 2019)

23 May 2019:

100 years ago NC-4 was in the Azores, waiting to complete the next leg to Lisbon on her transatlantic flight, the first flight across. We stopped by to visit and take a few more pictures for a book we are writing.

From First Flight to First Step in just 50 years.

If you'd like to own a piece of the wing fabric, contact Mike at Aviation Relic Prints. We just received our square of wing fabric, relic print and historical information, a fantastic piece of flying boat history.

We are gathering information for an article, if you have any stories or photos from folks who built, maintained or flew the aircraft we'd love to hear them and add to the historical record. Leave a note below!

19 Oct 19:

NC-4 refueling from her support ship in Lisbon, during the 1919 transatlantic flight. The gents in the boat look pretty dandy.

-A History of Naval Aviation
HMCo #341p Sea Plane Hull NC-4
HMCo #341p Sea Plane Hull NC-4 (1918, Extant); Navy Seaplane (hull only) designed by Curtiss, Glenn; built for U.S. Navy
Office of Information, US Naval Photographic Center. The Great Flight. 1970.
NC-4 Wikipedia
Silberg and Haas. 2011. Developing the Navy’s NC Flying Boats: Transforming Aeronautical Engineering for
the First Transatlantic Flight

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