Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk

The Model 58 was designed in response to a 1930 request by the USN for a new, small biplane for carrier use that did not require folding wings. The Navy was not happy with the design for carrier use, but found it to be an expedient solution for another problem--a tiny plane with a small enough wingspan to pass into the hanger of the giant airships USS Akron and USS Macon.

Six planes were delivered in 1932. They were armed, but their main purpose was to act as reconnaissance scouts for the slower mothership. The plane could be launched and recovered by the airship mid-flight by means of a "trapeze" extended from the mothership that attached to a hook mounted on the upper wing of the Sparrowhawk. The pilot carefully maneuvered in close to the airship, engaged the skyhook, and then shut down the engine of the biplane for retrieval into the hanger. Additionally, the landing gear of the planes could be detached and a 30-gallon auxiliary tank mounted instead for increased range. The planes often took off from base separately from the mothership, and were then used as "flying ballast" once the airship was underway.

Four of the F9Cs were lost when the USS Macon crashed in 1935. A single example survives in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The F9C Sparrowhawk burns 16.4 gallons of aviation fuel per hour at routine usage. A full load of fuel and ammo costs $32.


Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk

Subassemblies: Recon Fighter chassis +2; Recon Fighter wings with Biplane option +2; 2 fixed wheels +0.

Powertrain: 327-kW HP gasoline engine with 327-kW old prop and 60-gallon fuel tank [Body].

Occ.: 1 XCS Body

Cargo: 4 Body


Armor F RL B T U

Body: 2/2C 2/2C 2/2C 2/2C 2/2C

Wings: 2/2C 2/2C 2/2C 2/2C 2/2C

Wheels: 2/3 2/3 2/3 2/3 2/3



2xAircraft LMG/7.62 mm Browning [Body:F] (1,000 rounds each).*




Body: Medium radio transmitter and receiver, navigation instruments. Wing: Skyhook.



Size: 20'x25.5'x10' Payload: 0.35 tons Lwt.: 1.39 tons

Volume: 96 Maint.: 112 hours Cost: $3,180

HT: 6. HPs: 15 Body, 50 each Wing, 3 each Wheel.

aSpeed: 176 aAccel: 6 aDecel: 13 aMR: 3 aSR: 1

Stall Speed: 55 mph. Take-Off Run: 252 yards. Landing Run: 303 yards.

gSpeed: 245 gAccel: 12 gDecel: 10 gMR: 0.5 gSR: 2

Ground Pressure: Very High. 1/8 Off-Road Speed.


Design Notes:

Historical wing area was 173 sf. The fuel capacity and MG load outs are a guess. Design payload was identical to the historical value; loaded weight was reduced by 2 lbs. Design aSpeed was 200 mph. Performance calculations were based on historical values for wing area and loaded weight. The skyhook for attaching to the mothership's trapeze apparatus was treated as an arrestor hook for lack of a better convention. The Body MGs are synchronized, lowering RoF by 10% (see p. W:MP8).



The F9C-1 featured a flat upper wing, rather than the slightly gulled wing attachments of the -2. The plane was otherwise identical.


From the Aerodrome for GURPS

2008 by Jim Antonicic