B-2 “Condor”

Curtiss B-2 formation flight over Atlantic City, N.J. S/N 28-399 is in the foreground (tail section only). (U.S. Air Force photo)

Curtiss B-2 formation flight over Atlantic City, N.J. S/N 28-399 is in the foreground (tail section only). (U.S. Air Force photo)

The military aviation industry didn’t stop between World War I and World War II, it just didn’t move as quickly in the 1920s as it did in the 1930s and 40s.

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 Other than that, it was remarkable similar to the older bomber, and that made the B-2 outdated almost as soon as it left the gate.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.

Specifications

General

Crew: Five
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

Performance

Maximum speed: 132 mph
Cruise speed: 105.5 mph
Range: 805 mi
Ceiling: 17,100 ft
Rate of climb: 850 ft/min

Armament

Guns: Six .30 in (7.62 mm) Lewis machine guns
Bombs: 2,508 lb

Essential Reading

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.

Online Resources

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About John M. Guilfoil

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at guilfoil.j@blastmagazine.com. Tweet @johnguilfoil.