Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk

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Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk
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In October l928, contracts for the construction of two 6.5 million cubic feet, rigid airships (ZRS-4 Macon and ZRS-5 Akron) were issued by the Navy to the Goodyear Zeppelin Corporation of Akron, Ohio. With these design approvals for an airship 785 feet long with a range of over 9,000 miles, the Navy entered into another realm of flight - the use of dirigibles as airborne versions of aircraft carriers that could launch, recover and hangar four aircraft while airborne by means of a retractable trapeze extending below the airship to which they could hook-up. Of three aircraft designs submitted for consideration, only the Curtiss XF9C-l was small enough to fit through the dirigible's arbitrarily designed hangar door. Following conventional testing, it was fitted with a sky hook and made the first hook-on to an experimental trapeze on the USS Los Angeles in October l93l. Following major design changes, six production models of the XF9C-2 prototype were ordered and designated as F9C-2 "Sparrowhawks". All six were delivered in September l932 and began operating as scouts from the Akron which was lost a year later with no F9C-2's on board. Flying continued from the Macon until she too was lost along with four Sparrowhawks.

In the course of flying trials, landing gear were removed once the aircraft were aboard the airship, depending thereafter upon their sky hooks for launch and recovery. Landing gears were reinstalled before aircraft left the airship to return to their home base. After the loss of the Macon, the two surviving F9C-2s and the XF9C-2 remained in service for a year or two as utility aircraft, and were ultimately cannibalized to create the only F9C-2 "Sparrowhawk" in existence today (BuNo 9056). It is on loan from the National Air and Space Museum. As Close As Possible Today's Theme


  • Manufacturer: Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co.
  • Type: Airship-based fighter/scout
  • Crew: Pilot only
  • Powerplant: 438 hp Wright R-975-E3
  • Dimensions: Span 25'5"; length 20'7"
  • Weight: 2,770 lbs gross
  • Speed: l76 mph maximum
  • Range: l75 miles tactical
  • Armament: 2-0.30-in guns

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  • Fuselage and tail unit Navy grey.
  • Wings silver, upper surface of top wing chrome yellow.
  • Fuselage band, wing chevron, cowling and engine plate and spats, white.

The concept of an airborne aircraft carrier may sound impossible, but in the 1930s, there were two of them. The USS Akron and Macon were dirigibles that tiny Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk aircraft were launched from and recovered by. Until the Akron went down in a storm in 1933 and the Macon crashed in 1935, the Sparrowhawks had never had an accident. Curtiss had build eight Sparrowhawks as airship based fighters in the lighter-than-air division of the U.S. Navy.

Aircraft Locator For The Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk
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