Profile Publications No. 124 The Curtiss SB2C-1 Helldiver

The first SR2C -1, Bit N o.00001 a t Port Columbus on 2nd July 1942. during the initial Jlig h t programm e. Used for contract demonstration flights it was, like the X S B 2 C-I, lost due to structural failure during dive demonstration tests. (Photo: U.S.N./National Archives) to improve speed, without any significant improvement. A series of changes were made to the horizontal and vertical tail and tested to improve stability and control. Several changes to the cowling and cowl flaps were tested to improve engine cooling. During August of 1941, the airplane was laid up for installation of a one foot longer engine mount to move the centre of gravity forward, to improve stability. When flying resumed in September, propeller stress investigations were conducted, followed by installation of a newly-built tail assembly based on the latest and most satisfactory version tested prior to that time. With additional testing and several less significant changes, the airplane was considered ready for preliminary demonstration manoeu­ vres. These began with air manoeuvres and spins in late October with dives beginning in November. On 12th November, the XSB2C-1 was ferried to Port Columbus where dive tests continued. Dives proceeded through various conditions, mostly with speed brakes open, gradually building up to high speeds and higher “g” pullouts. There were some indications of tail buffeting and minor damage was repaired. On 21st December, test pilot Baron T. Hulse pushed over into a zero lift dive at 22.000 feet, intending to approach maximum “g” conditions in a pullout at speeds approaching terminal velocity. As the airplane started its pullout, the right wing and tail failed the pilot baled out safely. The SB2C programme was left without a flight test airplane and with a major problem to be solved since the cause of the crash could not be determined immediately. SB2C-1 DEVELOPMENT Negotiations began in the summer of 1940 and in November, still prior to the first flight of the XSB2C-1, Curtiss-Wright and the Navy reached agreement on a production order for 370 SB2C-l's. The following month a production contract for the Brewster SB2A-1 was signed—as well as one for Grumman's new TBF-l torpedo-bomber, two prototypes of which had been ordered several months after the two scout-bombers, and which also had not yet down. These were the first major contracts for carrier combat types under the expanding 1940 Defense Programme. The SB2C-1 schedule called for completion of the first airplane in December 1941 and a production rate of 85 per month beginning in April 1942. The production model was to be extensively redesigned to use techniques and components suitable for large volume production in place of the typical aeronautical practices of the time which were based on small orders, largely“ hand-built". Ex­tensive use was to be made of forgings, particularly large ones, and die castings. While initial production might be delayed by this approach, Curtiss and the Navy felt that it would rapidly buildup to be like P-40 production— at that time the nearest approach to mass production of a combat aircraft in the United InStates. addition, other changes were to be made such as the use of -50 wing guns rather than 20 mm. cannons, since the latter would not be available in production quantities to meet SB2C-1 schedules. Curtiss engineers recognized that they would have tocheck out all aspectsoftheairplane, using the XSB2C-1, to make BuN o 00018 shown inflight, .shortly after issue to V S -9 Nat A S Norfolk ,Virginia in November 1942. The company- painted number is visible on the fin note also retracted tail wheel and A S B Vagi antennae under the wings. (Photo: U.S.N./National Archives) Radio and electrical tests were conducted on 00007 at A nocost ia. Photographed on 14th December. 1942, the aircraft is seen herewith A BradS a rand A B DIFF installed. (Photo: U.S. Navy) On 18th December, 1940, Curtiss test pilot Lloyd Childs took the XSB2C-1 up for its first flight at the Curtiss Buffalo, New York plant. Flight testing continued through December and January. A large number of problems instability and control characteristics, particularly in lack of stability at aft centre of gravity location were uncovered, as well as engine cooling difficulties and various (and typical) hardware items. On 9th February, 1941, the engine cutout in the approach and the XSB2C-1 crashed among large piles of frozen dirt in a construction area short of the runway. The fuselage broke in two just aft of the wing and the entire aircraft was damaged extensively, the pilot surviving. By early May the airplane was rebuilt and flight testing resumed on 6th May. On the 10th flight, the left landing gear collapsed outward on landing and the airplane ground looped to a stop with a minimum of damage. Before the end of May the XSB2C-1 was back in the air. With the impetus of immense orders for production SB2C-l’s. flight testing and development proceeded at a fast pace during June and July, averaging nearly a flight a day. During this time engine operation, engine and oil cooling, performance, and stability and control were tested, improved where neccssary and retested, under a wide variety of flight conditions. Jet exhaust were evaluated
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