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Curtiss Fledgling / Model 48 / Model 51 / N2C
A Curtiss N2C-2 at the National Museum of Naval Aviation
The Fledgling was designed by Theodore Paul Wright in response to a 1927 Navy requirement for a new primary trainer, and was selected after evaluation in competition with fourteen other submissions. The Fledgling was a conventional biplane design with two-bay, staggered wings of equal span braced with N-struts. The pilot and instructor sat in tandem, open cockpits, and the fixed tailskid undercarriage could be easily swapped for a large central pontoon and outrigger floats under the wings for seaplane training. The Navy ordered two batches of the Fledgling, each powered by different versions of the Wright Whirlwind engine, both of which were built under the Curtiss designation Model 48.
In 1928 Curtiss' XN2C-1 Fledgling trainer was evaluated by the Navy and won the competition for a new primary trainerbeating out 14 other competing designs. The original design was powered by the 165 horsepower Curtiss Challenger engine, but in ordering 31 of the aircraft, the Navy specified the 220 horsepower Wright Whirlwind engine in 30 of the aircraft, leaving one aircraft, the only one in naval service, to be powered by the unique Challenger engine that featured twin rows of six cylinders each.
Curtiss XN2C-1 floatplane
In the United States Navy service they were known as the N2C. The Navy ordered 31 N2C-1s and 20 N2C-2 versions of the airplane. Though trainers, they were not assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, but instead were operated by Naval Reserve units around the country. By the late 1930s, surviving N2Cs were modified with tricycle landing gear and turned into radio-controlled drones used as targets for anti-aircraft gunners. One drone was used to execute an attack on a target ship, a precursor of today's anti-ship missiles.
Curtiss N2C-2 NAF drone 1938-39
Believing the design to have commercial potential, Curtiss developed the Model 51 as a civil equivalent powered by the less powerful Curtiss Challenger engine. The company operated 109 of these aircraft in its own air taxi service, the Curtiss Flying Service during the 1930s. A number of these aircraft were experimentally fitted with the same Wright engines used in their military counterparts as the J-1 and J-2, but these were not produced in quantity.
Curtiss Fledgling J-2 (Model 51) Wright Whirlwind J-6 Series
Another experimental variant, the reduced-wingspan Fledgling Junior was produced to the extent of a single prototype only.
First flying in 1927, about 160 of all models were built.
A number of Model 51s were exported to foreign military services for evaluation: four to Canada and one to Czechoslovakia, but these did not lead to any purchases. Curtiss also delivered at least seven N2C-1 kits to Turkey in 1933, as part of an agreement to produce the Curtiss Hawk Model 35 under licence in Turkey. These N2C-1s were used as trainers and liaison aircraft by the Turkish Air Force until 1945. At least one N2C-1 is thought to have been given to Iran as a gift from the Turkish Air Force.
Model 48
Navy prototypes (3 built)
Navy version powered by Wright J-5 Whirlwind (31 built)
Navy version powered by Wright J-6-7 Whirlwind (20 built)
Model 51
commercial version with Curtiss Challenger engine (109 built)
commercial version with Wright J-6-5 Whirlwind engine (four converted)
commercial version with Wright J-6-7 Whirlwind engine built to N2C-2 standard (two converted)
Fledgling Junior
reduced wingspan version (one built)
Fledgling Guardsman
convertible civil-military challenger powered versions.
designation assigned by the United States Army Air Corp USAAC for use of the Fledgling as a radio-controlled target aircraft
Engine: 1 × Wright J-5, 220 hp (160 kW)
Propeller: 2-bladed fixed pitch propeller
Wingspan: 39 ft 2 in (11.93 m)
Wing area: 365 sq ft (33.9 sq.m)
Length: 27 ft 4 in (8.33 m)
Height: 10 ft 4 in (3.14 m)
Empty weight: 2,135 lb (968 kg)
Gross weight: 2,832 lb (1,285 kg)
Maximum speed: 108.7 mph (175 km/h; 94 kn)
Cruise speed: 87 mph (140 km/h; 76 kn)
Range: 366 mi (318 nmi; 589 km)
Service ceiling: 15,100 ft (4,600 m)
Rate of climb: 695 ft/min (3.53 m/s)
Crew: 2
Curtiss XN2C-1

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