Take the 1929 offering from the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, the B-2 “Condor.” Evolving from the Martin NBS-1 bomber, the “Condor” had a short service life as the era of the biplane quickly came to an end in interwar years. But its design isn’t much of a stretch from the twin-engined medium bombers we would see in WWII. Straight-winged with two engines. The B-2 was also a big aircraft for its time, too large for most airplane hangers of the era.
The Army ordered a single XB-2 prototype in 1926, and it flew for the first time in September 1927. The only differences between the “Condor” and the NBS-1 were a thicker airfoil, steel tubing instead of a wood frame, and upgraded engines. Other than that, it was remarkable similar to the older bomber, and that made the B-2 outdated almost as soon as it left the gate.
Still, the bomber performed well and beat out designs from Keystone, Sikorsky, and Atlantic-Fokker. But as the 1930s began, advances in airplane design sank the B-2, which was taken out of service in 1934. None of the 13 planes built are believed to have survived.
After the B-2, Curtiss left the bomber business and went on to produce many varieties of the Hawk pursuit aircraft.
One of the B-2s was built with dual controls so that the co-pilot could take over if need be. The design had its most success as the T-32 “Condor II” airliner, which saw use with the airlines that would become Eastern Air Lines and American Airlines. Forty-five of those were built. The military used five models — two for executive transport, which it called the YC-30, and three for cargo, which were called CT-32.
Oddly enough, the T-32 was again turned into a bomber, the BT-32, which saw use in the 1930s in the Chinese Nationalist Air Force, Colombian Air Force, and Peruvian Air Force.
Length: 47 ft 4.5 in
Wingspan: 90 ft
Height: 16 ft 6 in
Empty weight: 9,300 lb (4,218 kg)
Engines: Two Curtiss V-1570-7 “Conqueror” liquid-cooled V12 engine, 600 hp each
Maximum speed: 132 mph
Cruise speed: 105.5 mph
Range: 805 mi
Ceiling: 17,100 ft
Rate of climb: 850 ft/min
Guns: Six .30 in (7.62 mm) Lewis machine guns
Bombs: 2,508 lb
Believe it or not, there are some great printed books available that provide reference for and tell the story of the B-2 “Condor.” “Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947” by Peter M. Bowers is a good one for starters. “U.S. Army Aircraft, 1908-1946” by James C. Fahey is another good one. Both are hardcover. Both are hard to find.
- Wikipedia — Good start. Doesn’t have all the info.
- Curtiss B-2 Condor by Joseph F. Baugher — Hasn’t been updated since 2000, but it is a fantastic serial-by-serial reference
- Aviation Enthusiast Corner — Good information with comments from readers, including accounts of famed pilot Clarence Chamberlain flying the “Condor.”
- National Museum of the U.S. Air Force fact sheet