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.

Curtiss NC
Curtiss NC-1 3 October 1918- initial three engine configuration
"NC-1" after completion, in three-engine configuration, 3 October 1918.
Role Long-range patrol
National origin United States
Manufacturer Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company
First flight 4 October 1918[1]
Primary user United States Navy
Number built 10
Variants NC-4


Manufacture of the "NC"s began in 1918 during World War I.[2] 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.[3] 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".[3]

NC-1 and NC-2 engine nacelle arrangements

Curtiss NC-3 Instrument Panel (center nacelle)
NC-3 instrument panel (center nacelle)

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.[4]

Operational history

Curtiss NC-3 Azores 1919
NC-3 off the Azores, 1919.

On 4 October 1918, the first of these aircraft, the NC-1, made its first test flight with the early three-engine configuration.[1] On 25 November, it flew again, with a world record 51 people on board. [N 1] Armistice Day, signaling the end of the war in Europe, came before testing of the first NC and construction of the other three of the Navy's initial order had been completed.

The NC-2 suffered damage during the testing phase and was cannibalized for spare parts.

The other three NCs, NC-1, NC-3, and NC-4, set out on what was intended as the first demonstration of transatlantic flight, via Newfoundland and the Azores, on 8 May 1919. As junior officer, Mitscher, who had been allotted to one of the commands, lost his command when NC-2 had to be broken up for parts. He went on the flight as one of the pilots of the NC-1.[6] The group met heavy fog off the Azores, making flight in the crudely instrumented aircraft extremely dangerous. Without a visible horizon it was extremely difficult to keep the aircraft in level flight. NC-1 tried different altitudes and soldiered on for several hours before eventually putting down just short of the Azores and was damaged beyond repair in the rough seas.[7]

Only the NC-4 made it through. The crew of NC-1 was rescued at sea. Attempts to tow the aircraft to the Azores failed. NC-3 was forced to land some 205 mi (330 km) distance from the Azores, but the crew, led by Commander John Henry Towers, managed to sail her to Ponta Delgada unaided.[8]

The Navy had two more sets of NCs constructed, numbered NC-5 to NC-8, and NC-9 and NC-10, up to 1921.


 United States

Specifications (NC-4)

Painting of the NC-4 flying over the icy North Atlantic

Data from Curtiss Aircraft 1907-1947[4]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 5
  • Length: 68 ft 3 in (20.80 m)
  • Wingspan: 126 ft (38 m)
  • Height: 24 ft 5 in (7.44 m)
  • Wing area: 2,441 sq ft (226.8 m2)
  • Airfoil: Navy Special[9]
  • Empty weight: 16,000 lb (7,257 kg)
  • Gross weight: 28,000 lb (12,701 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 27,386 lb (12,422 kg)
  • Powerplant: 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)
  • Range: 1,470 mi (2,370 km, 1,280 nmi)
  • Endurance: 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)
  • Power/mass: 0.06 hp/lb (0.1 kW/kg)


  • Guns: Machine guns in bow and rear cockpits

See also

Related development



  1. ^ "Soon the NC-l would establish a record by carrying 51 men aloft, including the first deliberate stowaway in aviation history."[5]


  1. ^ a b Holmes, Tony (2005). Jane's Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide. London: Harper Collins. p. 69. ISBN 0-00-719292-4.
  2. ^ "Chapter II - A Boat With Wings, p. 24." The Flight Across the Atlantic. Hammpondsport, New York: Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation, 1919.
  3. ^ a b Taylor 1954, p. 56.
  4. ^ a b Bowers, Chas. M. (1979). Curtiss Aircraft 1907-1947. London: Putnam & Company. pp. 115–120. ISBN 0 370100298.
  5. ^ "The First Flight Across the Atlantic." Naval Historical Center. Retrieved: 11 July 2007. "
  6. ^ Taylor 1954, p. 59.
  7. ^ Taylor 1954, p. 65.
  8. ^ The First Flight Across the Atlantic May 1919
  9. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.


  • Bowers, Chas. M. (1979). Curtiss Aircraft 1907-1947. London: Putnam & Company. pp. 115–120. ISBN 0 370100298.
  • Holmes, Tony (2005). Jane's Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide. London: Harper Collins. p. 69. ISBN 0-00-719292-4.
  • Steirman, Hy and Glenn D. Kittler. The First Transatlantic Flight, 1919, (originally Triumph). New York: Richardson & Sterman, 1986, first edition 1961. ISBN 0-931933-19-6.
  • Taylor, Theodore. The Magnificent Mitscher. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1954. ISBN 1-59114-850-2.
  • Wagner, Ray. American Combat Planes. New York: Doubleday, 1982, ISBN 0-385-13120-8.
  • "The U.S. Navy Flying-Boat, N.C. 1" (PDF). Flight. XI (20): 637–639. May 15, 1919. No. 542. Retrieved January 12, 2011. Contemporary technical description of the NC-1 in its original three-engine configuration, with photographs and drawings.
Albert Cushing Read

Albert Cushing Read, Sr. (April 29, 1887 – October 10, 1967) was an aviator and Rear Admiral in the United States Navy. He and his crew made the first transatlantic flight in the NC-4, a Curtiss NC flying boat.

Curtiss NC-4

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 NC designation was derived from the collaborative efforts of the Navy (N) and Curtiss (C). The NC series flying boats were designed to meet wartime needs, and after the end of World War I they were sent overseas to validate the design concept.

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.

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. This accomplishment was somewhat eclipsed in the minds of the public by the first nonstop transatlantic flight, made by the Royal Air Force pilots John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown two weeks later.

David Hugh McCulloch

David Hugh McCulloch (April 23, 1890 – September 20, 1955) was an early American aviator who worked with Glenn Curtiss from 1912. Curtiss, was a contemporary and competitor to the Wright Bros, Wilbur and Orville, who had made the first flights at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Curtiss won the world's first air race at Reims in France in August 1909, and was now becoming the driving force in American aviation. McCulloch's early work with Curtiss consisted of demonstrating, training and selling Curtiss planes and participating in early developments of flight. He trained the First Yale Unit (using Curtiss flying boats), and in two consecutive days in 1917, he and several of his pupils from the First Yale Unit made flights that convinced the Navy to bring aircraft aboard ships. Later, McCulloch was co-pilot with Holden C. Richardson and flight commander John Henry Towers of the NC-3, the leader of the three Navy flying boats making the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

Fairey N.4

The Fairey N.4 was a 1920s British five-seat long range reconnaissance flying boat. Designed and built by the Fairey Aviation Company to meet an Admiralty requirement for a very large four-engined reconnaissance aircraft, it was the world's biggest flying boat when it first flew in 1923.

Glenn Curtiss

Glenn Hammond Curtiss (May 21, 1878 – July 23, 1930) was an American aviation and motorcycling pioneer, and a founder of the U.S. aircraft industry. He began his career as a bicycle racer and builder before moving on to motorcycles. As early as 1904, he began to manufacture engines for airships. In 1908, Curtiss joined the Aerial Experiment Association, a pioneering research group, founded by Alexander Graham Bell at Beinn Bhreagh, Nova Scotia, to build flying machines.

Curtiss made the first officially witnessed flight in North America, won a race at the world's first international air meet in France, and made the first long-distance flight in the United States. His contributions in designing and building aircraft led to the formation of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, now part of Curtiss-Wright Corporation. His company built aircraft for the U.S. Army and Navy, and, during the years leading up to World War I, his experiments with seaplanes led to advances in naval aviation. Curtiss civil and military aircraft were predominant in the interwar and World War II eras.

Herbert C. Rodd

Herbert Charles Rodd (4 September 1894 – 15 June 1932) was a United States Naval Aviator. He served as the radio officer on the first successful transatlantic flight by the Curtiss NC-4 in May 1919 and later helped set additional world records for flight payload, duration and speed.Rodd was born in Cleveland, Ohio on 4 September 1894. He joined the U.S. Navy on 9 April 1917 as an enlisted seaman but was granted a provisional ensign's commission on 20 August 1918.After World War I, the U.S. Navy planned a transatlantic crossing by a division of four Curtiss NC seaplanes. Navy Ensign Rodd helped to develop the radio compass for these aircraft. Three seaplanes began the journey on 8 May 1919, but only the NC-4 completed the trip successfully. In the aftermath, he was made a knight of the Order of the Tower and Sword by the Portuguese government on 2 June 1919. As a member of the NC-4 crew, he was awarded the Navy Cross and later received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1929.

On 15-16 August 1927, Navy Lieutenants Rodd and Byron James Connell (12 August 1894 – 30 January 1972) flew a PN-10 seaplane for 20 hours, 45 minutes and 40 seconds on a 25-km triangular course until their fuel tanks ran dry. Their flight with Aviation Machinist's Mate Comar Vincent and a cargo of 500 kg of sand covered 2,525.3 km (about 1,568 miles). Lt. Connell had previously been the pilot on Cmdr. John Rodgers' 1925 attempt to fly from California to Hawaii in a PN-9 seaplane. The 1927 flight by Lts. Rodd and Connell set a new world record for average speed over a 2,000-km distance by a seaplane of 126.56 km/hr (78.56 miles/hr).Lt. Cmdr. Rodd died in the crash of Vought O2U Corsair seaplane near Hampton Roads, Virginia on 15 June 1932. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Holden C. Richardson

Holden Chester Richardson (December 7, 1878 – September 2, 1960), was a decorated officer in the United States Navy with the rank of captain. He is most noted as a pioneer in United States naval aviation.


NC4, NC-4 or similar may refer to:

Curtiss NC-4, an aircraft

North Carolina Highway 4, a state highway

Charlotte Route 4 in Charlotte, North Carolina, never designated NC 4 but possibly confused

North Carolina's 4th congressional district

National Naval Aviation Museum

The National Naval Aviation Museum, formerly known as the National Museum of Naval Aviation and the Naval Aviation Museum, is a military and aerospace museum located at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.

Naval Aircraft Factory Giant Boat

The Naval Aircraft Factory Giant Boat or GB was a 1919 maritime patrol aircraft project undertaken by the Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF), the in-house aircraft production arm of the United States Navy. The proposed flying boat was larger and heavier and would have possessed a longer range than any similar type then in existence, but the project was hampered by labor and funding shortages stemming from deep post-World War I U.S. military budget cuts, and in 1921, navy leaders prioritized other aircraft types and ended the project. The single incomplete prototype is believed to have been broken up after 1925.

Historian William F. Trimble describes the Giant Boat as an "aberration" that "stretched the technological capabilities of the day, especially in the areas of propulsion, aerodynamics, materials, and drag reduction." Flying boats with ranges and maximum takeoff weights exceeding the design specifications of the Giant Boat would not emerge until the mid to late 1930s.


A seaplane is a powered fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing (alighting) on water. Seaplanes that can also take off and land on airfields are in a subclass called amphibious aircraft. Seaplanes and amphibians are usually divided into two categories based on their technological characteristics: floatplanes and flying boats; the latter are generally far larger and can carry far more. These aircraft were sometimes called hydroplanes, but currently this term applies instead to motor-powered watercraft that use the technique of hydrodynamic lift to skim the surface of water when running at speed.Their use gradually tailed off after World War II, partially because of the investments in airports during the war. In the 21st century, seaplanes maintain a few niche uses, such as for dropping water on forest fires, air transport around archipelagos, and access to undeveloped or roadless areas, some of which have numerous lakes.

USS Aaron Ward (DD-132)

The first ship named in honor of Rear Admiral Aaron Ward, USS Aaron Ward (DD-132) was a Wickes-class destroyer in service with the United States Navy. In 1940, she was transferred to the Royal Navy and renamed HMS Castleton.

USS Aroostook (CM-3)

USS Aroostook (ID-1256/CM-3/AK-44) was the Eastern Steamship Company's Bunker Hill converted for planting the World War I North Sea Mine Barrage. Bunker Hill was built in 1907 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for passenger service between Boston and New York City. Bunker Hill and her sister ship Massachusetts were among the eight ships acquired by the U.S. Navy in November 1917. The two coastal passenger steamers were converted to minelayers at the Boston Navy Yard.

USS Chew (DD-106)

USS Chew (DD-106) was a Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War I and World War II. She was named in honor of Samuel Chew.

From 1918 to 1922, Chew operated along the East Coast of the United States on patrol and training duties, including escorting a transatlantic voyage of Curtiss NC seaplanes. In 1940, she was recommissioned and operated out of Pearl Harbor. During the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, she brought her guns to bear against aircraft of the Empire of Japan, and two of her men were killed helping to man the battleship Pennsylvania. For the remainder of the war, Chew operated out of the port on escort and patrol duties, until she was decommissioned in 1945.

USS Harding (DD-91)

USS Harding (DD-91) was a Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War I. She was the first ship named in honor of Seth Harding.

Launched in 1918, she undertook training exercises off the East Coast of the United States sporadically for several years. In 1919, she escorted a major transatlantic flight of Curtiss NC seaplane. Later that year, she was selected to be converted into a seaplane tender, and was then used to support naval aviator training off Naval Air Station Pensacola. She took one trip to Veracruz with emergency medical supplies, and was also on hand during aircraft bombing tests against decommissioned German ships, including the sinking of SMS Ostfriesland. She was decommissioned in 1922 and sold for scrapping in 1936.

Walter Hinton

Walter T. Hinton (10 November 1888 – 28 October 1981) was a United States aviator.

Hinton was born in a farming family in Van Wert, Ohio. Seeing a poster urging young men to "Join the Navy and See The World", he joined the United States Navy. He saw action in the 1914 United States occupation of Veracruz, Mexico. Hinton had a great fascination with early aircraft, and soon went into Naval aviation.

Hinton achieved fame as one of the two pilots, along with Elmer F. Stone, of the Curtiss NC flying boat "NC-4", the first aircraft to make a transatlantic flight, in May 1919. After the successful completion of this journey, he was made a knight of the Order of the Tower and Sword by the Portuguese government on 3 June 1919. As a member of the NC-4 crew, he was awarded the Navy Cross and later received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1929.

Hinton's aeronautic adventures during the 1920s include exploring the Arctic by balloon, and a wayward flight from Rockaway, Queens to Moose Factory, Ontario in the winter, which caused a month-long hike to civilization. Hinton and Kloor wrote letters home which their families sold to newspapers describing the flight, which prompted the Navy to start enforcing rarely used censorship rules. Hinton made the first flight from North America to South America (on the second try—he floated on a wing in shark infested waters off Cuba for a while at the end of the first try), and explored the Amazon Rainforest by hydroplane.He spent years touring as a speaker promoting aviation.

He also has an Airport in his birth town of Van Wert (KVNW) named in his honor as Walter Hinton Field. Along with the 100 year celebration of his on transatlantic flight on WALTER HINTON Day, May 18, 2019 at the Van Wert County Regional Airport.

Hinton spent his retirement in Pompano Beach, Florida, where he delighted in sharing his memories with local children. One of his happiest events of his later years was being a special guest on an early supersonic transatlantic flight of the Concorde, making the trip which had first taken Hinton 19 days in less than four hours.

Hinton was President and Founder of the Aviation Institute of U.S.A Washington D.C. in 1927 and 1928, where he published several periodicals on aviation. Periodicals included Opportunities in Aviation, The Wright Whirlwind Motor, Pioneers in Aviation, Aviation Progress, and "Wings of Opportunity".

After his death in 1981, his ashes were interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Curtiss and Curtiss-Wright aircraft
Operator and role
USN/USMC patrol aircraft designations 1923–1962
Patrol Bomber
Patrol Torpedo Bomber


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.