Curtiss Model 71 / SOC Seagull
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Curtiss Model 71 / SOC Seagull

Last of the Curtiss biplanes to be used operationally by the US Navy, the SOC Seagull has a service history which very nearly duplicates that of the Royal Navy's Fairey Swordfish torpedo-bomber. Both originated in 1933, both should have become obsolescent during the early stages of World War II, both remained operational until the end of the war surviving, superbly, later designs intended to replace them.

The US Navy's requirement for a new scouting/observation aircraft was circulated to US manufacturers in early 1933, resulting in proposals from Curtiss, Douglas and Vought, but it was the XO3C-1 prototype, company-designated Curtiss Model 71, ordered on 19 June 1933 and first flown in April 1934, which was ordered into production as the SOC-1 (Model 71A). This changed official designation reflected the combination of scout and observation roles.

When first flown the prototype was equipped with amphibious landing gear, twin main wheels being incorporated in the central float. However, standard production aircraft were built as floatplanes, with non-retractable tailwheel landing gear optional; in any event they were easily convertible from one configuration to the other. Construction was mixed, with the foldable wings and tail unit of light alloy, a welded steel-tube fuselage structure, and a mixture of light alloy and fabric covering. The pilot and gunner/observer were accommodated in tandem cockpits, enclosed by a continuous transparent canopy with sliding sections for access. To provide a maximum field of fire for the flexibly-mounted gun in the rear cockpit, the turtleback could be retracted.

Deliveries of the first SOC-1 production aircraft began on 12 November 1935. These were powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp engines, and the first squadrons to become fully equipped with the type comprised Scouting Squadrons VS-5B/ -6B/ -9S/ -10S/ -11S. Production of 135 SOC-1s was followed by 40 examples of the SOC-2 (Model 71B) with wheeled landing gear, detail improvements and R-1340-22 Wasp engines. A total of 83 examples of the SOC-3 (Model 71E) was built, these being generally similar to the SOC-1. SOC-2s and SOC-3s, after modification to install arrester gear during 1942, became redesignated SOC-2A and SOC-3A respectively. Curtiss also built three aircraft virtually the same as the SOC-3 for service with the US Coast Guard: these SOC-4 (Model 71F) aircraft were acquired by the US Navy in 1942 and equipped with arrester gearto bring them up to SOC-3A standard. In addition to the SOC Seagulls built by Curtiss, 44 were produced by the Naval Aircraft Factory at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Basically the same as the Curtiss-built SOC-3, these were designated SON-1 or, if fitted with arrester gear, SON-1A.

Following termination of SOC production in early 1938, Curtiss became involved in the development and manufacture of a successor, designated SO3C Seamew. However, when the operational performance of the Seamew proved unsatisfactory it was withdrawn from first-line service; all available SOCs then reverted to operational status, continuing to fulfil their appointed role until the end of the war.


 MODELCurtiss SOC-1 (floatplane)
 ENGINE1 x 447kW Pratt & Whitney R-1340-18 Wasp radial piston engine
    Take-off weight2466 kg5437 lb
    Empty weight1718 kg3788 lb
    Wingspan10.97 m36 ft 0 in
    Length8.08 m27 ft 6 in
    Height4.50 m15 ft 9 in
    Wing area31.77 m2341.97 sq ft
    Max. speed266 km/h165 mph
    Cruise speed214 km/h133 mph
    Ceiling4540 m14900 ft
    Range1086 km675 miles
 ARMAMENT2 x 7.62mm machine-guns, 295kg of bombs

Curtiss Model 71 / SOC SeagullA three-view drawing (844 x 811)

Annette Yates, 03.09.2017

I would like to make contact with Barry Schoen, as my father also was on the USS Indianapolis at the same time as his uncle. My father was the avionics radioman that was seated behind the pilot on the SOC Seahawk. My dad also got off at the same time and then went on to flight school in Pensacola, Florida. I don't have any picture other than what I find at different websites. My father's name was Charles W. Stone.

Barry Schoen, 04.08.2016

My uncle was a SOC-1 pilot on the USS Indianapolis for three years. He was left on R&R stateside when they took the nuke cargo to Tarawa. I have a handful of his pictures from the Indy.

Keith Polite, 14.09.2015

I am searching for the Pilot's Handbook for the SOC-1, 2, 3 and/or 4. This is an aircraft that served distinctively in WW-II and it is my intention to preserve the technical data so it will not be lost to history with only a few pictures to remember it by. A good quality Xerox copy will suffice for this purpose.

Virgina L. Barnett-Buchner, 08.04.2015

To Craig Lindberg: My late 1st husband John M. Barnett served aboard USS Cleveland with your Dad they were great buddies the 4 of us, your Dad, Mom Betty John and I spent several reunions together. U and my youngest son Kevin share the same birthday 2/7/56 I think that John said their plane was a 1928.John passed away 5/17/01

Ernie Snowden, 21.05.2014

For Michael Garvey who left a comment regarding his father's service in USS Minneapolis. My uncle for whom I'm named, Ernie Snowden, served as a SOC pilot on Minneapolis, but earlier I think - around 1939 or 1940. If Michael has any material like photos or cruise reports from Minneapolis or Scouting Squadron SIX from that period, I'd be very interested in seeing those.

Michael Garvey, 18.02.2014

My father, Lt. Jg. Charles C. Garvey, flew the SOC off the USS Minneapolis (CA36) during operations in the South Pacific. We found a photo in the Nat. Archives of he and his radioman being hoisted onto a catapult for a 5 hour spotting flight on Oct. 5, 1943 during the battle for Wake Island. For his 80th birthday, we commissioned noted military artist, Stan Stokes, to paint an action shot of an SOC being shot off a heavy cruiser. Dad passed away in July 2011 just 2 months shy of his 95 birthday. He is missed.

Mike Osborn, 21.03.2013

Had an uncle lost off Peru flying the SOC 3, Aug 9 1942. Have a plastic scale model of the aircraft and am looking for the proper colors to paint it. The model will be given to my dad when finished. Any information would be helpfull.

Craig Lindberg, 17.02.2011

My father H.O. Lindberg was an Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class aboard USS Cleveland CL-55 light cruiser 1941-45 in South Pacific (13 battle stars) He maintained SOC-1s and flew as gunner/aerial recon and have a few photos aloft, during retrieval, and on the catapults. Rugged airframe to hold up under these operations.

Don Pierce, 23.01.2011

My father flew and commanded a squadron of SOCs off the USS Honolulu CL48 (Light Cruiser) in Alaska and the Solomon Islands during WWII. I am looking for photos, documentation, models, plans, etc. as well as location of any of these aircraft. Thanks.

Warren Bates, 01.12.2010

My brother, Karl, was in navy 1932-1936. Flew off of USS indianoplis as gunner & observer. I have a few pictures of their plane on deck of "India"

Geoff Woad, 15.08.2010

July 2010 - saw one of these planes in Garden Bay on the Sunshine coast in British Columbia. Painted rescue yellow, with what looked like a newish engine, and ready to fly.

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