April 9, 2020
Lecture: “Hull 341: The Navy-Curtiss Flying Boat, First Across the Atlantic”
Captain Kent Lewis, U. S. Marine Corps (Retired) is designated an Unrestricted Naval Aviator who flew four types of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft.
By Kent B. Lewis
September 18th, 2019
Transatlantic travel was perilous during the first World War, and Allied shipping was preyed upon by German submarines. The United States was shipping sea planes to England to combat the German threat but needed a better way to get aircraft across the Atlantic. The design requirement for a flying boat emerged, one more than ten times larger than anything previously built, and the Navy turned to Glenn Curtiss. Together, they developed the Navy Curtiss Flying Boat, known as the N.C. or Nancy. The Nancies were designed towards the end of the war and did not fly until after the Armistice, but the Navy decided to finish the craft and validate the concept and design.
No single company was large enough to build the entire aircraft, so components were contracted out to boat and coach manufacturers of the day. Herreshoff Manufacturing Company was asked to build one of the first four hulls, which they did in their Small Boat Shop. Herreshoff was known for conquering the Atlantic, and HMCo’s hull number 341 became NC-4. She alone would finish the first aerial crossing of the Atlantic in May of 1919.
The Nancies were technological marvels of their time, and NC-4 survives today preserved at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. Mr. Lewis has had the permission of the Smithsonian Institution to examine the Herreshoff hull closely, and will share photos and archival material of NC-4 as she currently rests on her launch dolly.
Captain Kent Lewis, U. S. Marine Corps (Retired) is designated an Unrestricted Naval Aviator who flew four types of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft. He has a B.A. in History and Masters in Library Science, and he currently flies as a Captain for Delta Air Lines. Kent and his spouse Audrey are maritime historians who build and restore small boats when not messing about in them. Their blog can be found at smallboatrestoration.blogspot.com