Canadian Wings :: The History & Heritage of the Royal Canadian Air Force

Curtiss HS-2L

In the First World War, the HS family of flying boats developed by Curtiss for the USN proved to be highly successful. Following the marriage of the HS-1 hull design and the popular Liberty engine, the HS-1 was ordered into large scale production as the US Navy's standard coastal patrol flying boat. The design was then further modified with an additional 6 foot panel in the centre-wing section increasing the span from 62 to 74 foot. This increase allowed for the carriage of a heavier bomb load and the modification resulted in a new designation of HS-2L. In 1918 in order to combat the growing submarine menace off Canada's east coast, the Royal Navy requested that two air bases be constructed. The Royal Canadian Naval Air Service thus came into being. Unfortunately, starting from scratch with no trained crews or aircraft proved to be a daunting task. Consequently, the US Navy was invited to fill the gap and a detachment of the USN personnel arrived in Halifax in August 1918 to begin operations using four HS-2L flying boats. The officer in charge of the USN detachment was Lieutenant Richard E. Byrd, USN(R), who later gained fame both as an aviator and polar explorer. With the Armistice, flying operations quickly wound down.

The USN detachment disbanded leaving behind 12 HS-2Ls as a donation to the Canadian government. These and other aircraft were then used by the RCAF on fishery, anti-rum-running and custom patrols on both the east and west coasts. The type also pioneered bush flying into Canada's wilderness in both military and civilian hands. The HS-2L remained the standard single-engine patrol and training flying boat for the USN in the post-war era as well.

aircraft specifications
CDN Reg:
Manufacturer: Curtiss Aeroplane Division
Crew / Passengers: crew of four or five
Power Plant(s): one 350 hp Liberty 12 piston engine
Performance: Max Speed: 83 mph ( 134 km/h) Cruising Speed: mph ( km/h)
Service Ceiling: 5,200 ft ( 1,585 m) Range: 517 mi ( 832 km)
Weights: Empty: 4,300 lbs ( 1,950 kg) Gross: 6,432 lb ( 2,918 kg)
Dimensions: Span: 74 ft 1/2 in ( 22.58 m) Length: 39 ft 0 in ( 11.89 m)
Height: 14 ft 7 in ( 4.44 m) Wing Area: 803 sq ft (74.60 sq m)
Armament: Provisions for one flexibly mounted 0.30 caliber machine gun in rear cockpit plus two 230 lb bombs or depth charges under the wings
Curtiss HS-2L flying boat in RCAF colours. (CF Photo)

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