Thursday, June 16, 2011

U.S.A - 1918 Curtiss Model HA-2

The Flawed Dunkirk Fighter

Sometimes a design looks better on paper than in real life. This was the case with the Curtiss HA-2 float plane. This bulbous aircraft seemed to have a lot of good things going for it. A powerful Liberty V-12 engine and plenty of firepower supplied by four 0.30 in (7.62 mm) machine guns. Stability issues and unfortunate accidents slowed development. By the time the kinks had been worked out of the design the war ended along with a need for the aircraft.

The Curtiss HA (sometimes Dunkirk Fighter) was an American biplane seaplane designed by Captain B.L. Smith of the United States Marine Corps, and built by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company.

The HA was a two-seat biplane with a central float and balancing floats on the wingtips. The fuselage was wood with a fabric covering. The plane was powered by a Liberty 12 engine in the nose. The prototype was ordered in December 1917, and its first flight was on 21 March 1918. During testing the aircraft proved very unstable, with an overly heavy tailplane. The aircraft was destroyed in a crash.

Two more prototypes were ordered, designated HA-1 and HA-2. the HA-1 was constructed of salvaged parts from the original, but its tailplane and radiator were redesigned, and its wings were moved further aft. The HA-1 caught fire during a flight. The HA-2 had a wider wingspan, and performed better, but as the war was almost over, no production order was received.


  1. Curtiss HA. (2010, August 20). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:54, January 16, 2011, from
  2. Angelucci, Enzo (1987). The American Fighter from 1917 to the present pp 116-117. New York: Orion Books.


kingsleypark said...

What an odd looking aircraft. Okay not quite as odd as the Luftkreuzer
but it's squat and as you describe it "bulbous" and it's tailplane look over sized for the rest of the frame.

Did the test pilot survive the test flight crash?

W. I. Boucher said...

I am not sure. The accounts I have read did not state if the pilot survived.

The Angry Lurker said...

It's like a little barrage balloon with attachments.