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Curtiss NC

The Curtiss NC (Curtiss Navy Curtiss, nicknamed “Nancy boat” or “Nancy”) was a flying boat built by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company and used by the United States Navy from 1918 through the early 1920s.

Ten of these aircraft were built, the most famous of which is the NC-4, the first airplane to make a transatlantic flight.

The NC-4 is preserved in the National Museum of Naval Aviation, at NAS Pensacola, Florida.

Manufacture of the “NC”s began in 1918 during World War I.

The U.S. Navy wished for an aircraft capable of long ocean flights, both for anti-submarine warfare patrol, and if possible with capability to fly across the Atlantic Ocean under their own power to avoid having to be shipped through ocean waters menaced by German submarines.

This was a very ambitious undertaking, given the state of aviation at the time.

The Navy and Curtiss came up with one of the largest biplane designs yet produced, equipped with sleeping quarters and a wireless transmitter/receiver.

It was originally powered by three V12 Liberty engines of 400 hp (298 kW) each; during the testing phase Marc Mitscher recommended the addition of a fourth engine to help create enough power to lift the boats out of the water.

The fourth engine was added to the midline in a pusher configuration.

The maximum speed was 90 mph (144 km/h) and the estimated maximum range was 1,500 mi (2,400 km).

Called NC boats, with the “N” for Navy and “C” for the builder Curtiss, they were nicknamed “Nancys”.

As originally completed the NC-1 had three tractor engines in nacelles located midway between the mainplanes, the centre nacelle housing the cockpit for two pilots.

Due to a lack of power the centre nacelle was raised, elongated forwards and a pusher engine added.

With this engine arrangement the pilots cockpit was moved to the hull in a more conventional position.

NC-2 differed in having the centre engine, of its complement of three, fitted as a pusher, retaining the pilots cockpit in the centre nacelle.

Also suffering from a lack of power, the NC-2 was modified with four engines in tandem outer nacelles, (due to the outer nacelles being built closer to the centre nacelle, the three tractor/one pusher arrangement was impractical).

Initially the centre cockpit nacelle was retained but this was soon removed and a similar conventional cockpit to NC-1 was added.

NC-3 onwards continued with the later NC-1 arrangement of 3x tractor/1x pusher engines and conventional cockpit in the hull.






68 ft 3 in (20.80 m)


126 ft (38 m)


24 ft 5 in (7.44 m)

Wing area

2,441 sq ft (226.8 m2)


Navy Special

Empty weight

16,000 lb (7,257 kg)

Gross weight

28,000 lb (12,701 kg)

Max take-off weight

27,386 lb (12,422 kg)


4 × Liberty L-12A V-12 water-cooled piston engines,

400 hp (300 kW) each


Maximum speed

85 mph (137 km/h, 74 kn)

Stall speed

62 mph (100 km/h, 54 kn)


1,470 mi (2,370 km, 1,280 nmi)


14.8 hours

Service ceiling

4,500 ft (1,400 m)

Rate of climb

220 ft/min (1.1 m/s)

Wing loading

11.5 lb/sq ft (56 kg/m2)


0.06 hp/lb (0.1 kW/kg)



Machine guns in bow and rear cockpits.

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