During 1917, the US Navy Bureau of Construction and Repair collaborated with Glenn Curtiss in an effort to produce a flying-boat that would be capable of crossing the Atlantic without difficulty and be immediately available for operations. Preliminary designs, drawn up by naval team which included Commander Jerome Hunsaker, were developed by Curtiss and his engineers. The selected configuration was a wide-span biplane with three tractor engines, a short hull to accommodate a crew of five, and a biplane tail supported on booms projecting from the upper wing and the rear of the hull. Detail design was carried out by the Curtiss staff, except for the hull which was the work of US Navy Commander Holden Richardson. Soon afterwards Curtiss received an order for production of the NC as it had by then been designated (NC for Navy-Curtiss). Four aircraft were to be built by Curtiss, and it was decided that the Naval Aircraft Factory would build six more.
Existing factory space at the Curtiss Garden City, New York factory was greatly expanded with US Navy help for production of the NCs, which were to be taken by road in sections for final assembly at Rockaway Naval Air Station. When World War I ended only the NC-1 had been completed and the original purpose of the design no longer existed. Although the NAF NCs were cancelled, the US Navy decided to go ahead with the four Curtiss 'boats which would be used in a transatlantic flight to the UK. It was felt that the publicity gained by such a flight would be of great value to the US Navy.
Three NC boats (NC-1, NC-3 and NC-4) left Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland on 16 May 1919, NC-2 having already come to grief. Both the NC-1 and the NC-3 came down at sea short of Horta in the Azores, which was to be the first stop. Neither could take off again, the NC-1 being abandoned and its crew taken off by ship, but the NC-3 was able to taxi in to Horta. Only the NC-4 completed the journey to Plymouth successfully, arriving on 31 May following stops at Horta, Ponta Delgada, Lisbon, and Ferrol del Caudillo. The total distance flown from take-off at Rockaway, New York on 8 May was 6317km, completed in 57 hours 16 minutes total flight time.
Engines: 3 x 360-hp/268-kW Liberty inlines in tractor layout
Later - four engines as three tractors and one pusher
Engines: two tractors and one pusher
Later two tractor/pusher tandem pairs
As four-engined NC-l
Engine: 4 x 400-hp / 298kW Liberty 12A inline piston
Maximum take-off weight: 28,000 lb / 12,701 kg
Empty weight: 7257 kg / 16,000 lb
Wingspan: 38.40 m / 125 ft 12 in
Length: 20.80 m / 68 ft 3 in
Height: 7.44 m / 24 ft 5 in
Wing area: 226.77 sq.m / 2440.93 sq ft
Max. speed: 137 km/h / 85 mph at sea level
Service ceiling: 760 m / 2500 ft
Climb to 2,000 ft (610 m): 10 min 0 sec
Endurance 14 hours 45 minutes.