Minnesota Flyer - Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

July Mystery Airplane Contest


September 1, 2021

Tom Lymburn

Consolidated (Fleet) N2Y-1

The concept of mating an airplane with an airship was trialed as early as World War I. On 26 January 1918, an Albatros D. III was released from Zeppelin L-35 (LZ-80). The pilot flew the fighter to a successful landing. No method of recovering to the airship was tried. Further trials by the British and later the United States followed. The British experimented with launching a Sopwith Camel (unpiloted) from airship R-23 in 1918 and later a piloted de Havilland Hummingbird and Gloster Grebe from airship R-33 in the 1920's.

The U.S. Army flew a Sperry Messenger from the blimp TC-3 in December 1924. What if a small plane could be used for recon or for defense?

U.S. Navy planners designed the scouting airships Akron and Macon with an onboard hangar to carry aircraft. Built by the Goodyear-Zeppelin Company of Akron, Ohio, these giants measured 785 feet long with a 133-foot diameter. Gas volume was an immense 6.5 million cubic feet. Although not equipped with a hangar, the German-built Los Angeles was fitted with a trapeze and on 3 July 1929, Lt. Jake Gordon, flying a specially modified Vought UO-1, made the first successful hook on. Further tests proved the concept. A purpose-built utility plane could provide pilot training and would serve as a liaison aircraft for the Akron and Macon.

Based on the Fleet Model 2, Approved Type Certificate 131 of June 1929, the Navy ordered six N2Y-1 "Skyhook" trainers from Consolidated, which had bought out Fleet in 1930. Powered by a 115 hp Kinner K-5 radials, the N2Y-1 had a maximum speed of 108 mph and weighed only 1637 pounds loaded. These were assigned to training operations aboard the Los Angeles, Akron, and Macon. Wearing serial numbers A-8600 to A-8605, they served until replaced by Waco XJW-1s. These smaller, low performance airplanes paved the way for the deployment of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk fighter. With the crashes of the Akron in April 1933 and the Macon in July 1934, the surviving N2Y-1s were reassigned to the carriers Saratoga (CV-3) and Ranger (CV-4) as utility aircraft.

This photo, of the sole survivor of the six N2Y-1s, serial number A-8605, was taken in 2010 at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola.

The only surviving Curtiss Sparrowhawk fighter, Bu-9264, is displayed at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles.

Congratulations to Dave Lundgren who recognized the N2Y-1, an unusual aircraft from the days when giant dirigibles roamed the skies. Blue skies and tail winds! Fly well and fly safely.


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