The World’s Only Flying SB2C Helldiver!
This Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Helldiver is the only Curtiss SB2C Helldiver still flying in the entire world! Approximately 7,200 Helldivers were built, and of these only five are left. Of the five remaining SB2C’s, only this one (Number 32) is currently flying.
The SB2C Navy Dive Bomber is an incredible aircraft. The editors of LearnToFly.ca had the rare and very fortunate opportunity to get close-up with this last remaining flying Curtiss SB2C Helldiver.
70 Years Old
The SB2C Helldiver was manufactured by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation for the US Navy during W.W. II. The first production SB2C Helldiver was flown in 1942, and now almost 70 years later, the last SB2C is still flying.
Last of the Dive Bombers
It was an awesome opportunity to see this last flying example of the SB2C Helldiver. Number 32 is the only flying SB2C Helldiver in the world, and we met up with Lead Pilot Mark Allen of the CAF as he gave us a personal tour of the aircraft. I’ve always loved the Navy Warplanes, but the SB2C Helldiver is a favourite for many.
The Learn to Fly Guys (LearnToFly.ca Editors Greg McKay and Geoff McKay) were invited on to the Hot Ramp (Active/Live Ramp) at the Hamilton Air Show for pilot interviews and a firsthand tour of the many warbirds and vintage aircraft. During the coming weeks, we will be sharing many of these exclusive pilot interviews and amazing up close photos of vintage warbirds with our online visitors and email subscribers.
Pilot Interview: CAF Pilot Mark Allen and the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver
Lead Pilot Mark Allen talks about the Curtiss-Wright SB2C Helldiver Navy Bomber
The Curtiss-Wright SB2C Helldiver was designed for the US Navy to be a Carrier based dive bomber. The CAF Helldiver (Number 32) flown by pilot Mark Allen is the SB2C-5 model. This was the last production version of the SB2C and it was in active service by the Navy from July 5, 1945 through August 31, 1948. The Helldiver’s two tone navy blue and grey colours are commemorative of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Franklin CV-13.
As a Carrier based Navy warbird, the SB2C Helldiver was designed with Folding Wings! It’s truly amazing to see this aircraft open and close its wings. By folding the wings up, the footprint required on the aircraft carrier deck would be minimized, allowing for considerably more aircraft to be utilized. At war, it was desirable to have the maximum number of warbirds that could be operated and flown from a single aircraft carrier.
Don’t try this in Flight!
Pilot Mark Allen demonstrates the awesome engineering of this aircraft as he automatically opens or closes the wings. Obviously, he would never do this in flight, but for ground operations it is truly incredible to watch as the wings fold up and the wing tips come to rest nested together above the cockpit. For aviation technology designed and built almost seven decades ago, it is fantastic even to this day!
The folding wings of the SB2C Helldiver are unforgettable. With this being the last flying SB2C Helldiver in the world, it was an honour to see this unique and one-of-a-kind remnant of aviation history in action.
Yes, those are the SB2C Wings neatly folded together above the cockpit as pilot Mark Allen and crew secure the airplane after a great performance at the Hamilton Air Show.
End of an Era
The Curtiss-Wright SB2C Helldiver was the last true Dive Bomber produced for the US Navy. Amazingly, SB2C aircraft were responsible for more ship tonnage sunk during World War II than any other type of aircraft.
The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was often referred to as the “Big-Tailed Beast”, or simply the “Beast” and it was an important asset in the US Navy’s arsenal of weapons and armament. Lead Pilot Mark Allen tells us he started by flying the Harvard, but he is now especially lucky and privileged to be commanding this last flying SB2C in the world.
The SB2C Helldiver has a stall speed of about 65 knots, and it can fly as fast as 350 knots in an 80 degree dive with the dive flaps out. Capable of plus 5 G’s and minus 3 G’s, the Helldiverhas certainly earned its name!
The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was equipped with a Rear Gunner seat. The aircraft was a two-seat scout and Dive-Bomber. Configured for one pilot and one gunner, the rear seat was for the gunner who faced backwards to defend the Helldiver from attack from behind. The rear gunner had two .30 calibre machine guns to protect the Helldiver from enemy attack.
Mounted in the wings were two (or sometimes four) 20mm cannons for strafing enemy ships and other targets during dive bomb missions. The SB2C also carried a payload of up to 2,000 pounds of bombs. (1,000 pounds could be carried in the bomb bay, and another 1,000 pounds of bombs could be carried under the wings) The SB2C could also carry up to eight 5-inch rockets.
You can see lead pilot Mark Allen preparing for a flight with an aerial photographer seated in the rear gunner seat.
The Curtiss-Wright SB2C Helldiver could climb to 10,000 feet in less than 9 minutes, and it had a service ceiling of 26,400 feet. With a range of 1,805 miles, the Helldiver was a formidable force in the skies during W.W. II.
The Helldiver was one of the greatest Navy Planes of W.W. II. The demand for the Helldiver by the U.S. Navy was so great, that the British only received 26 SB2C’s from a British order of 450 of these aircraft.
It was a spectacular sight to see, and it’s especially significant considering this is the only flying Curtiss SB2C Helldiver in the world!
Many thanks to the Hamilton Air Show, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) and lead Pilot Mark Allen for spending some time with the editors of LearnToFly.ca. The Number 32, Curtiss-Wright SB2C-5 Helldiver Navy Dive Bomber is truly an original, and it’s nice to share details about this vintage warplane with our online visitors.
We look forward to sharing many more exclusive aviation videos and photos from our pilot interviews at the Hamilton Air Show.