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Curtiss-Wright CW-14 Osprey

The Curtiss-Wright CW-14, named variously Travel Air, Sportsman, Speedwing and Osprey is an American 3-seat open cockpit single-bay biplane from the 1930s that was developed by Travel Air as a replacement for the highly successful Travel Air 4000.

As a result of the Great Depression, which also limited sales, Travel Air merged into the Curtiss-Wright group of companies before production could start, so all examples were built by Curtiss-Wright.

Its main claim to fame would be as the most numerous aircraft used in the Chaco war, where it formed the backbone of the Bolivian Air Force.

Previous Travel Air biplanes had been designed under the direction of Walter Beech, however the 14 was designed by Fred Landgraff, whose previous design experience included the Rearwin Ken-Royce and Alexander Eaglerock biplanes – to which the new design owed more than it did to the Travel Air 4000/4 it was intended to replace. 

The handling of the aircraft reflected this, and it was described as being “no Travel Air”.

One of the possible reasons for the difference in handling may be due to the airfoil chosen – previous Travel Air biplanes had used the Travel Air #1 airfoil section, while the CW-14 used the Navy N-9 section which was also used by the Beechcraft 17 Staggerwing, and the Vought UO, while the contemporary Curtiss-Wright CW-12 and CW-16 used a 15% Clark Y.

Wings were built around four solid spruce spars, used single piece web ribs and were fitted with Frise ailerons on the top wing only, which provided good low speed control while helping counteract adverse yaw.

A plywood walkway was provided at the wing root on both sides, and the wing root was faired into the fuselage with a metal fillet.

The external push-pull tubes connecting the ailerons on the upper wing to the torque tube in the lower wing on the Travel Airs was dispensed with and the control lines were run inside the struts.

The main 35 US gal (130 L) fuel tank was in the fuselage ahead of the passenger compartment, while a 23 US gal (87 L; 19 imp gal) header tank was in the centre section of the top wing.

The empennage was built up from welded steel tubing, with the fin being ground adjustable for trim, and the elevators could be trimmed in flight.

The B-14R & C-14R had rounded elevators of slightly reduced area.

The cabane struts more closely resembled the “//\” of the Eaglerock than they did the “N” struts of the Travel Airs, as did the fuselage’s internal structure.

The fuselage was constructed of welded chromium-molybdenum alloy steel tubes forming a Pratt truss buried in the lower 3/5th of the oval section fuselage, which was faired with formers and battens to a nearly ideal form.

Again, unlike that of the Travel Air, no bracing wires were used, instead diagonal metal bracing kept it square.

The front cockpit seated two, which unlike the Travel Air 4000, lacked the door on the left side and the corresponding dip in the left longeron.

A metal cover was provided to fair over the front cockpit when not in use and dual controls were an available option at additional cost.

Room for baggage was provided with a large compartment behind the pilot and a small bin in the dashboard of the front cockpit.

The radial engine was enclosed in a NACA cowling to reduce drag.

Only two types of engines were offered – the unreliable 185 hp (138 kW) Curtiss R-600 Challenger, which was to be used only in the prototype, and several variants of the Wright Whirlwind family, ranging from 240 to 420 hp (180 to 310 kW).

The militarized C-14R had a large cutout in the trailing edge of the upper wing, redesigned cabane struts and it had the cockpit shifted forward to allow room for a gunner behind the pilot.

All surfaces aside from the aluminum panels on the top of the forward fuselage were covered in doped aircraft grade fabric.

The split axle undercarriage used oleo-pneumatic shock absorber struts, dispensing with the bungee cords used on previous Travel Airs.

It rode on 8.00 x 10 low pressure tires and was equipped with brakes.

Both tailwheels and tailskids were used.

A spate of accidents in Bolivia, and the resulting complaints resulted in a redesigned, taller tailskid for the Bolivian examples.

The Bolivian military examples were fitted with bomb racks which were cleared to carry up to 250 lb (110 kg) of bombs. 

These aircraft were also armed with a fixed forward firing synchronized .30 in (7.62 mm) machine gun provided with 500 rounds of ammunition, while the observer/gunner was provided with a flexible .30 in (7.62 mm) machine gun that could be moved between 7 different positions, although for bombing missions, the gunner was often left behind.

The predecessor to the FAA, the Bureau of Air Commerce operated a single B-14B (msn 2011, NS1A, NC1A), and another was converted from a B-14B into the sole B-14R (msn 2003, NC12311) as a racing aircraft.

The armed militarized C-14R Osprey variants sold better, however aside from Bolivia which received 20, all of the remaining operators, which were in Latin America, operated them only in twos and threes.


CW-14C Travel Air

1931 (ATC 2-357) prototype with 185 hp (138 kW) Curtiss R-600 Challenger radial engine.

1 built, later converted into an A-14D

CW-A-14D Sportsman Deluxe

1931 (ATC 442) 240 hp (180 kW) Wright J-6-7 Whirlwind radial engine

CW-B-14B Speedwing

1932 (ATC 485) with 330 hp (250 kW) Wright R-975E radial engine

CW-B-14D Speedwing

1 modified with 350 hp (260 kW) Wright R-975-E radial engine

CW-B-14R (Racer)

1 built as a racer for Casey Lambert with 420 hp (310 kW) Wright J-6-9 Whirlwind/SR-975 radial engine

CW-C-14B Osprey

1932 Military CW-B-14B with 300 hp (220 kW) Wright J-6-9 Whirlwind radial engine

CW-C-14R Osprey

420 hp (310 kW) Wright J-6-9 Whirlwind radial engine


Alternate designation for C-14R


Fighter development of Osprey, probably unbuilt.


Unbuilt primary trainer development of Osprey with detail changes to be powered by Wright R-760E.


Curtiss-Wright CW-B-14B Speedwing 






23 ft 2 in (7.06 m)

Upper wingspan

31 ft 0 in (9.45 m)

Upper wing chord

60 in (1.5 m)

Upper wing dihedral


Lower wingspan

23 ft 7 in (7.19 m)

Lower wing chord

48 in (1.2 m)

Lower wing dihedral



9 ft 1 in (2.77 m)

Wing area

248 sq ft (23.0 m2)


Navy N-9

Empty weight

2,008 lb (911 kg)

Gross weight

3,067 lb (1,391 kg)

Useful load

1,059 lb (480 kg)

Fuel capacity

66 US gal (250 L; 55 imp gal)

Oil capacity

5 US gal (19 L; 4.2 imp gal)

Undercarriage track

81 in (2.1 m)


1 × Wright R-975-E Whirlwind air-cooled radial engine,

300 hp (220 kW)


2-bladed metal Hamilton-Standard fixed-pitch propeller


Maximum speed

177 mph (285 km/h, 154 kn)

Cruise speed

150 mph (240 km/h, 130 kn)

Minimum control speed

57 mph (92 km/h, 50 kn)


575 mi (925 km, 500 nmi) at cruising speed

Service ceiling

18,700 ft (5,700 m)

Rate of climb

1,600 ft/min (8.1 m/s) for first minute from sea level

Fuel consumption

16 US gal (61 L; 13 imp gal)/hr at cruising speed.

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