Model Airplane News
February, 1969


Model Airplane News Cover for January, 1954 by Jo Kotula Curtiss F8C Falcon (Helldiver)    Model Airplane News Cover for January, 1954 by Jo Kotula Curtiss Falcon Civilian Transport

Curtiss F8C "Falcon" ("Helldiver") and Civilian Counterpart
Model Airplane News Cover Art for January, 1954 and February, 1969
by Jo Kotula
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The Curtiss Falcon was primarily a military biplane aircraft built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company during the 1920s. Most saw service as part of the United States Army Air Corps as observation aircraft with the designations O-1 and O-11, or as the attack aircraft designated the A-3 Falcon. U.S. Navy variants were used initially as fighter-bombers with the designation F8C Falcon, then as the first U.S. Marine Corps dive bombers with the name Helldiver. Two later generations of Curtiss dive-bombers would also be named Helldiver. The type was introduced in 1925 and saw first-line service in the United States until 1934. A civilian variant was used as a mailplane.

The Curtiss F8C Falcon (Helldiver)      The Curtiss F8C Falcon (Helldiver)

Curtiss F8C "Falcon" ("Helldiver")
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The aircraft was a conventional unequal-span biplane design with wooden wings; the fuselage was built using aluminum tubing. The landing gear was fixed and the tail included a balanced rudder. The initial Falcon order was placed in the winter of 1927 for 76 A-3s planes.

The U.S. Navy introduced the Falcon as a shipboard fighter in 1927-1928. They were later redesignated OC-1 and OC-2 for Marine Corps use as an observation/bomber. The F8C-4 Helldiver variant initially saw service with the Navy, and the first production batch of 25 was transferred in 1931 to the Marine Corps. 34 F8Cs redesignated as O2C-1 observation aircraft were also transferred to the Naval Reserve in 1931, serving with squadrons VN-10RD9, VN-11RD9, and VN-12RD9. Most of the 63 newer F8C-5/O2C-1 Helldivers also served with the Marines, remaining in service until 1936. The type was featured in two Hollywood films, Hell Divers and King Kong.

Curtiss Falcon aircraft fought during the Brazil Revolution of 1930. In Bolivia the aircraft type also fought in the Chaco War (19321935), bombing Paraguayan troopers. The Colombian Air Force used Falcon F-8 and O-1 in the Colombia-Peru War in 1932-3.

The Curtiss Falcon Mailplane-Transport Version     The Curtiss Falcon Mailplane-Transport Version

Curtiss "Falcon" Mailplane/Transport Civilan Version
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Above are photographs of the civilian version of the "Falcon", configured as mailplanes by enclosing the front cockpit and moving the controls to the rear. They were powered by the 400 hp Liberty engines from World War I. They were used by National Air Transport (NAT) on the New York to Chicago mail runs, often being flown at night. NAT was the forerunner of United Airlines.

Click Here for more information about the Curtiss F8C "Falcon" ("Helldiver"). Click here to learn more about the civian version of the Falcon.

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