TYPE: Scouting and observation seaplane
ACCOMMODATION: Pilot and observer
POWER PLANT: One Ranger XV-770-8-8 inline air-cooled engine, rated at 600 hp
PERFORMANCE: 172 mph at 8,100 ft
COMMENT: The Curtiss SO3C “Seamew” was developed by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation as a replacement for the Curtiss SOC “Seagull” as the US Navy’s’s standard floatplane scout. Curtiss named the SO3C the “Seamew” but in 1941 the US Navy began calling it by the name “Seagull”, the same name as the aircraft it replaced (the Curtiss SOC a biplane type), causing some confusion. The British Royal Navy kept the Curtiss name “Seamew” for the SO3C that they ordered. One of the US Navy’s main design requirements was that the SOC “Seagull’s” replacement had to be able to operate both from ocean vessels with a single center float and from land bases with the float replaced by a wheeled landing gear.
From the time it entered service the SO3C suffered two serious flaws: inflight stability problems and problems with the unique Ranger air-cooled, inverted V-shaped inline engine. The stability problem was mostly resolved with the introduction of upturned wingtips and a larger rear tail surface that extended over the rear observer’s cockpit. The additional tail surface was attached to the rear observer’s sliding canopy and pilots claimed there were still stability problems when the canopy was open. The canopy was often open because the aircraft’s main role was spotting. While the inflight stability problem was eventually addressed (although not fully solved), the Ranger XV-770 engine proved a dismal failure even after many attempted modifications. Poor flight performance and a poor maintenance record led to the SO3C being withdrawn from US Navy first line units by 1944. The older biplane Curtiss SOC “Seagull” was taken from stateside training units and restored to first-line service on many US Navy warships until the end of World War II. In total 795 Curtiss SO3C “Seamew’s”have been built (Ref.: 24).