Tag Archives: floatplane

Faireys on the Nile, 90 Years Ago Today

Pictured are three Fairey IIIF floatplanes of No. 47 Squadron on the Blue Nile at Khartoum before departing for a series of exploratory flights over Southern Sudan on 8 July 1930. The aircraft pictured are J9796, J9809, and J9802.

RAF MOD Image 45163722

As noted by RAF, who released the image as part of their 100 years of the RAF celebration in 2018:

The Fairey Aviation Company Fairey III was a family of British reconnaissance biplanes that enjoyed a very long production and service history in both landplane and seaplane variants. The RAF used the IIIF to equip general-purpose squadrons in Egypt, Sudan, Aden, and Jordan, where its ability to operate from both wheels and floats proved useful, while the contemporary Westland Wapiti carried out similar roles in Iraq and India. As such IIIFs were used for colonial policing as well as taking part in further long-distance flights.

The RAF also used the IIIF to finally replace the Airco DH.9A in the home-based Day-Bomber role, and, in the absence of sufficient long-range flying boats for maritime patrol duties by 202 Squadron from Hal Far Malta.

The IIIF remained in front line service well into the 1930s, with the last front-line RAF squadron, 202 Squadron, re-equipping with Supermarine Scapas in August 1935, and the final front line Fleet Air Arm squadron, 822 Squadron retained the IIIF until 1936.

Founded in 1916 to protect Hull and East Yorkshire against attack by German Zeppelins, No. 47 Squadron of the Royal Air Force today operates the Lockheed C-130 Hercules transports from RAF Brize Norton.

Not very many 104-year-old squadrons around these days.

Appropriately for the image above, their motto is Nili nomen roboris omen (The name of the Nile is an omen of our strength)

Nick’s Heron

An Italian triple-engine floatplane, a CANT Z. 506B Airone (Italian: Heron) rests on a Sicilian beach (possibly on Mondello beach south of Palermo) guarded by an SMLE-armed British soldier in November 1943.

LOC LC-DIG-fsa-8d34157

Originally built in the 1930s as a 12-seat passenger plane for the Italian airline Ala Littoria to zip tourists and businessmen around the Med, the Airone turned out to be a pretty decent search-and-rescue craft and torpedo bomber and as such saw service in WWII with the Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) and Navy (Regia Marina) as well as the by the Luftwaffe in limited numbers.

Another photo from the same set, LC-DIG-fsa-8d34158.

The two above images were shot by Office of War Information photographer Nick Parrino, who crawled around the ETO and the Middle East throughout 1943 and 1944, leaving behind more than 500 amazing images that are available through the Library of Congress.

Postwar, the Airone would remain in service as a SAR aircraft into the 1960s. Of the more than 350 produced, only one is preserved.

Seagulls and Crackerjacks

USS Idaho (BB-42). Ship’s company posed on the after deck and after 14″/50 cal gun turrets, circa 1938.

Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Vice Admiral Alexander Sharp, USN. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 83900

Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Vice Admiral Alexander Sharp, USN. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 83900

Note two Curtiss SOC-3 Seagull floatplanes, of Battleship Division Three’s Observation Squadron Three (VO-3), atop the Turret # 3 catapult and on deck to the port of the turrets. The squadron provided four-aircraft dets to not only Idaho but also sisters USS Mississippi (BB-41) and New Mexico (BB-40).

The humble Seagull, although out of production by the time this image was taken and was planned to be replaced by the Vought OS2U Kingfisher and SO3C Seamew, still flew observation and scouting missions (equipped with up to 650-pounds of ordnance) in WWII, one of the few U.S. Navy biplanes to see combat during the conflict.

During WWII, VO-3 wore an insignia using Disney cartoon character “Oswald the Rabbit” riding a shell, a pretty accurate depiction of their role in calling NGFS.

The humble Seagull

SOC Seagull aircraft just launched from Augusta's catapult, Casco Bay, Maine, United States, Jun 1942

SOC Seagull aircraft just launched from USS Augusta’s catapult, Casco Bay, Maine, United States, Jun 1942. Note the two bombs carried underwing.

In 1933, with aircraft carriers few and far between, helicopters nonexistent and radar in its infancy, if a surface ship wanted to see over the horizon this meant a seaplane. And the go-to for the U.S. Navy at the time was the Curtiss SOC (scout/observation SO aircraft produced by Curtis-Wright C) Seagull.

air_soc11This overgrown bumblebee could putter around at about 130 mph and stay aloft for about four hours or so. If needed, the big Pratt & Whitney R-1340 single-row 600 hp engine could be leaned down to give a one-way range of almost 900 miles to deliver mail and dispatches ashore or to other ships far over the horizon.

Armament? Yeah, about that– just one Browning M2 AN machine gun forward and another aft, each with 500 rounds ready. Don’t confuse these guns with the M2 .50 cal, as they were a .30.06-cal air-cooled gun that had a much higher rate of fire (1100 rpm) but a much smaller bullet that had about half the range. Besides this, the little scout could carry about 500 pounds of bombs or depth charges.

Some 315 Gulls were made in four marks by 1938 for the sea services and were used both from seaplane tenders, shore stations, and cruisers/battleships.

SOC-3A Seagull floatplane of US Navy Scouting Squadron 201 (VS-201) parked on the deck of escort carrier Long Island, 16 Dec 1941. Note the float has been replaced by landing gear

SOC-3A Seagull floatplane of US Navy Scouting Squadron 201 (VS-201) parked on the deck of the escort carrier USS Long Island, 16 Dec 1941. Note the float has been replaced by landing gear and a 325-pound aircraft Mk 17 depth charge is fitted centerline.

Long Island #2

Long Island #2

It was the latter that the Gull excelled, as since they could be “knocked down” to as small as 12-feet wide, a large cruiser or battlewagon could carry 8 of these seaplanes if needed (4 on the deck/catapults, 4 in the stowage).

SOC-3 Seagull aircraft stripped for maintenance in the hangar of light cruiser Savannah, 1938; note the close up of the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 9-cylinder radial engine and caster tracks to roll the planes out of the hangar on its truck and on deck for launch NH 85630

SOC-3 Seagull aircraft stripped for maintenance in the hangar of light cruiser USS Savannah, 1938; note the close up of the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 9-cylinder radial engine and caster tracks to roll the planes out of the hangar on its truck and on deck for launch NH 85630

Liberty party from battleship California prepared to go ashore, 1940; note SOC-3 floatplanes

Liberty party from battleship California prepared to go ashore, 1940; note at least three SOC-3 floatplanes on cats

USS Nevada at anchor at Lahaina Roads, Territory of Hawaii, pre-war. Note SOC Seagulls

USS Nevada at anchor at Lahaina Roads, Territory of Hawaii, pre-war. Note 3 SOC Seagulls

While the battleships soon had their Gulls replaced by monoplane Kingfishers, the simple Curtiss biplanes remained in service on cruisers as late as 1944 where they were used to scout, rescue downed pilots, and lost seamen and adjust naval gunfire.

SOC-3 scout-observation floatplanes off cruiser Honolulu flying in formation, circa 1938-1939, note the prewar scheme. United States Navy Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 82466

SOC-3 scout-observation floatplanes off cruiser USS Honolulu flying in formation, circa 1938-1939, note the prewar scheme. United States Navy Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 82466

Memphis' Curtiss SOC Seagull scout-observation aircraft hooked onto the recovery mat, in preparation for being hoisted on board, circa early 1942

USS Memphis’ Curtiss SOC Seagull scout-observation aircraft hooked onto the recovery mat, in preparation for being hoisted on board, circa early 1942

SOC-3 Seagull aircraft from cruiser Portland flying in a formation of four, circa 1944, note the wartime scheme United States Navy Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 81995

SOC-3 Seagull aircraft from cruiser USS Portland flying in a formation of four, circa 1944, note the wartime scheme United States Navy Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 81995

US Navy Aviation Machinist's Mate polishing the 9-foot propeller of a SOC Seagull floatplane at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, United States, circa 1940-41. Photographer Dayton A. Seiler, United States National Archives 80-G-K-13541

US Navy Aviation Machinist’s Mate polishing the 9-foot propeller of a SOC Seagull floatplane at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, United States, circa 1940-41. Photographer Dayton A. Seiler, United States National Archives 80-G-K-13541

 

Retired in 1946, the Seagull was perhaps the last biplane in front line regular U.S. military service.