Curtiss Model 82 / SO3C Seamew


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Curtiss Model 82 / SO3C Seamew

In 1937 the US Navy invited proposals for the design of a scout monoplane which would offer improved performance over the Curtiss SOC Seagull then in operational service. It was required for operation from either ships at sea or land bases, which meant that easily interchangeable float/wheel landing gear was essential. From the proposals received both Curtiss and Vought were awarded prototype contracts in May 1938 under the respective designation XSO3C-1 and XSO2U-1. The latter prototype (1440), powered by a 410kW Ranger XV-770-4 engine, was duly flown in competition, but it was the Curtiss Model 82 design which was ordered into production. Despite this, the XSO3C-1 had serious instability problems. These were resolved finally by the introduction of upturned wingtips and increased tail surfaces, but the resulting aircraft in its landplane form was almost certainly the ugliest aircraft to be produced by the Curtiss company. Of all-metal construction, except for fabric-covered control surfaces, the XSO3C-1 had a crew of two accommodated in tandem enclosed cockpits. Floatplane landing gear comprised a large single-step central float and strut-mounted wingtip stabiliser floats and the wheeled landing gear was conspicuous by having large streamlined fairings. The prototype XSO3C-1 flew for the first time on 6 October 1939, and it and the Model 82A production SO3C-1 initially named Seagull, were powered by a 388kW Ranger V-770-6 engine.

SO3C-1 production aircraft began to enter service on board the USS Cleveland in July 1942, and 300 were built before production switched to the SO3C-2. This Model 82B differed in having equipment for carrier operations, including an arrester hook, plus an underfuselage rack on the landplane version to mount a 227kg bomb. Production of this model totalled 456, of which 250 were allocated to the UK under Lend-Lease, although British records would seem to suggest that only 100 were received. Designation of the version intended originally for the Royal Navy was SO3C-1B (Model 82C), but those actually delivered were of the SO3C-2C variant with a more powerful engine, hydraulic brakes for aircraft with wheeled landing gear and other refinements. In British service these aircraft were designated Seamew, a name adopted subsequently by the US Navy, but none were used operationally in Great Britain. Instead, they equipped Nos 744 and 745 Training Squadrons, based at Yarmouth, Canada and Worthy Downs, Hampshire respectively, for the instruction of air gunners/wireless operators.

The unsatisfactory performance of the SO3C-1 in the US Navy led to their withdrawal from first-line service. Many were converted for use as radio-controlled targets under the designation SO3C-1K, 30 being assigned to the UK, by whom they were designated Queen Seamew and used to supplement the fleet of de Havilland Queen Bee target aircraft.

In an attempt to retrieve the situation, Curtiss introduced in late 1943 a lighter-weight variant equipped with the more powerful SGV-770-8 engine; designated SO3C-3 (Model 82C), only 39 were built before production ended in January 1944. Plans to introduce an SO3C-3 variant with arrester gear, and production by the Ryan Aeronautical Corporation of SO3C-1s under the designation SOR-1, were cancelled.


The V-12 Ranger engine as used in the SO3C lacked the reliability of the company's six-cylinder inline models and was notorious for failure, causing numerous crashes.

For storage before launch on battleship and cruiser catapults, the Seamew had folding wings.

The leading edge fin fillet was attached to the rear canopy section and moved back and forth as it opened and closed. This reduced the effective fin area and thus the lateral stability.

To replace the Queen Bee radiocontrolled target version of the Tiger Moth, the UK converted about 30 SO3Cs as Queen Seamews for the same role.

The production Seamew had unusual upturned wingtips, where it probably should have had root-to- tip dihedral.


 MODELCurtiss SO3C-2C
 ENGINE1 x 447kW Ranger SGV-770-8 inline piston engine
  Take-off weight2599 kg5730 lb
  Empty weight1943 kg4284 lb
  Wingspan11.58 m38 ft 0 in
  Length11.23 m37 ft 10 in
  Height4.57 m15 ft 0 in
  Wing area26.94 m2289.98 sq ft
  Max. speed277 km/h172 mph
  Cruise speed201 km/h125 mph
  Ceiling4815 m15800 ft
  Range1851 km1150 miles
 ARMAMENT1 x 7.62mm + 1 x 12.7mm machine-guns, 2 x 45kg bombs

Curtiss Model 82 / SO3C SeamewA three-view drawing (1278 x 858)

Greenseaships, e-mail, 23.05.2022 07:04

"but the resulting aircraft in its landplane form was almost certainly the ugliest aircraft to be produced by the Curtiss company".

I suspect the author of this article doesn't know about the Curtiss C-76 Caravan?


Oldgysgt, e-mail, 11.01.2016 05:36

The Curtiss Model 82 / SO3C Seamew is an example of what can happen when a company is over managed to the point that "dry rot" sets in at the top. This piece of crap airplane was so bad that the Curtiss Model 71 / SOC Seagull BIPLANE had to be recalled from training schools and scrap depots to replace it. In 1940 Curtiss was the oldest and probably the most important producer of military aircraft for the US government; before the end of the decade they were out of the airframe making business. That's what I call "running a company into the ground".


Carlos A .P., e-mail, 14.08.2011 06:43

This aircraft Curtiss seaplane was very important in rescue of pilots and the engine Ranger of 447 kW help to important work.


Steve, e-mail, 09.09.2009 17:54

Re. landing gear: Only a minority of a typical USN floatplane order was delivered on floats. The bulk would be delivered with wheeled gear, along with enough floats for part of them - to be mounted as needed, probably by a maintenance depot. For local patrol and utility work, the wheeled landing gear was apparently considered more useful.


Larry Foley, e-mail, 20.01.2009 23:14

I need a high resolution image of the so3c used on this site for an educational TV documentary. How owns the rights and how may I obtain a high resolution image?


Arthur Lee, e-mail, 21.04.2007 01:43

Did this aircraft have easily attachable fixed wheels if the floats were removed? Many photos show landing gear with "pants." Were any mlg temporary in nature?


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