Developing the Navy's NC Flying Boats: Transforming Aeronautical Engineering for the First Transatlantic Flight
NAVAL SURFACE WARFARE CENTER CARDEROCK DIV BETHESDA MD HYDROMECHANICS DEPT
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When RADM David Taylor proposed a flying boat able to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1917, the aircrafts purpose was to support the mission of combating German U-boats wreaking havoc on transatlantic shipping. At that time, seaplanes could not operate unsupported over the ocean nor could they survive the harsh conditions of the North Atlantic. Existing land based bombers did not have the capabilities required for extended patrols over water. RADM Taylor knew that a self-deploying anti-submarine aircraft could be transformative in control of the seas. Intended for combat, it could not be fragile nor optimized for the singular purpose of crossing the ocean in ideal conditions. The result was the NC flying boat. With an unusual shape, advanced engineering, cutting edge technology, and unsurpassed seaworthiness, it was the largest of its kind. By late 1918, the first of these craft had been constructed, but the war ended and their military necessity vanished. Navy leadership refocused efforts to do what many still thought impossible - cross the Atlantic Ocean by air. In May of 1919, NC Seaplane Division One set off from Rockaway, New York on a voyage to make history. This paper chronicles the development of these aircraft, and the lasting legacy of the first aircraft to cross any ocean.
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