Profile Publications No. 124 The Curtiss SB2C-1 Helldiver

All SB2C -1 prepares to launch from the deck o f the U.S.S. Yorktown during carrier qualification trials. As a result o f this program me, Captain Clark o f the Yorktown recom­mended cancellation o f the S B 2 C series. (Photo: U.S.N./National Archives) Striking study o fanS B 2 C -Io f VB-17 approaching the deck o f the Blinker Mill during Air Group 17's shakedown cruise in July 1943. This aircraft is the subject o f the five-aspect painting on p .2 o f this Profile. (Photo: U.S.N./National Archives) mechanical drive from a fuselage mounted hydraulic motor. This feature, which gave much faster acting flaps, was scheduled for the 201st airplane, along with anew type of 20 mm. cannon, one of which was to replace the two -50's in each wing. 00006 went to Wright Field for Army tests in anticipation of their A-25A's, 00007 with complete radio/radar installation toN A S Anacostia, D.C. for radio/electrical tests, and 00008 to Norfolk for accelerated service tests. While these test programmes got underway, the next four airplanes were assigned to various training functions. In November, 00013, which had been modified for torpedo carrying, was flown toN A S Quonset Point, Rhode Island for torpedo launching tests and a month later, 00014 went to Langley Field, Virgina for flight and full scale tunnel tests. As these tests proceeded, various unsatisfactory conditions and problems were uncovered, but the SB2C-1 was considered to be in quite good shape considering that the XSB2C-1 had never undergone Navy trials. The main recurring complaint was the longitudinal instability, although this was not considered a critical condition. The arresting and catapulting tests led to changes to increase the strength of the fuselage fuel tank and its supports and of the tailwheel support structure, along with many lesser items. Armament tests showed the -50 wing gun installation to be satisfactory with minor changes, but the -50 turret was unacceptable due to poor tracking, sight vibration and other problems. Bomb loading and bomb release results were generally satis­factory. Accelerated service trials with 00008 revealed many discrepancies, most of them attributed to the high power settings used in these tests and to poor workmanship. The torpedo installation was also developed into a workable condition— though the SB2C-l’s were never used for torpedo missions in service. TheN A C A Langley tests had a two-fold purpose. While drag evaluation was of interest, these tests and accom­panying flight tests were also directed toward investigating the flight characteristics of the SB2C in high speed dives. The latter programme stemmed from the loss of the XSB2C-1 and dive problems with other contemporary combat aircraft. It included static tests of re-designed surfaces at Curtiss as well as theN A C A flight programme. As part of theN A C A drag tests, installation of a twin •50 Emerson aft turret was evaluated. In January the demonstration dives of 00001 brought home the need for the high speed research more clearly when the first SB2C-I, like the XSB2C-1, failed structurally in a dive pull-out. This view shows to good effect the three-shade camouflage finish o f the H elld iver, including the non-specular white under­ surfaces. (Photo: U.S.N. via Ward) This time the test pilot was not as fortunate as Hulse had been. Elforts were intensified and led to what became the final major engineering effort on the SB2C-1: an intensive programme to determine the cause of these crashes, fix the airplane, and demonstrate safely the required dives and pull-outs. Using two highly instrumented SB2C-l's for flight test, Curtiss-Wright Research Laboratory in Buffalo undertook the final flight investigation, checking both flutter and air loads, beginning in November 1943. When completed, compressibility effects were found to bethe cause. Dive demonstrations, modified to call out only zero lift, dive-brakes-open dives were completed using the air loads research airplane 00140 in the later summer of 1944, after which the Curtiss pilots conducted similar demonstrations on the SBW -I and SBF-I. The last was the Fairchild of Canada-built SB2C-I, the contract for which had been signed in December of 1942. The SB2C-1 series aircraft operated throughout their service life restricted against clean high speed dives. EARLY SERVICE December 1942 saw the first SB2C-l’s delivered to a fleet squadron: to VS-9, one of the squadrons of Air Group 9 which would go aboard the Essex (CV-9). VB-9 also began to receive SB2C-I's. With an early deployment date for the Essex, it soon became apparent that the new Helldivers were devel­oping too many faults, both in design and workmanship, to permit completion of the necessary operational train­ing on schedule. Their planes were shifted to VR-17 and the York town's Air Group 106
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