Made during WWII by Curtiss, this film was created to introduce U.S. Navy pilots to their new SB2C Helldiver, a carrier-based dive bomber aircraft produced for the US Navy. Due to the advent of air-to-ground rockets, the SB2C was the last purpose-built dive bomber produced. The aircraft was one of the more maligned planes to be put into production, and developed a bad reputation in early service. While manufacturers produced many similar films during the war, one has to wonder whether this particular film was part of a concerted p.r. effort by Curtiss to save their reputation. The aircraft flew successfully through the last two years of the war, but the Helldiver's reputation coupled with a scandal involving defective aircraft engines produced in 1941-43 seriously crippled Curtiss.
The film begins with pilots watching as the aircraft is put through its paces and press the pilot for “the dope” on the Helldiver once he lands. At mark 01:50 we see the plane on the runway as the narrator explains how it it a multi-faceted machine that can develop torpedoes or depth bombs, and can be used on aircraft carriers or land-based squadrons. Engine specifics are discussed beginning at mark 02:04 and as the film continues we learn of its various design components from wheels to bomb bays. Start-up procedures are covered at mark 04:00 and we receive a detailed look of every switch and lever inside the cockpit, and every contingency involving fuel and oil pressure (mark 06:30). As the first US Navy dive bomber equipped with hydraulic folding wings, the film takes care in explaining their operation starting near mark 06:50. Pilots demonstrate proper take-off procedures starting near mark 08:00 with the camera carefully following gauges and levers are they are described. The pilots review proper procedures for aircraft carrier take offs, which vary slightly from land-based procedures (mark 13:45) before climbing away from the field at mark 15:50 as pilots are cautioned to keep an eye on their fuel mixture controls and cylinder head temperatures during lift off. Stall characteristics of the Helldiver are covered starting at mark 18:00 as a film crew in another aircraft captures maneuvers in the sky and the narrator provides additional detailed information. The film continues with a more details on handing the plane in a dive (mark 20:25), crucial information since the Helldiver is used on bombing missions. Emergency safety procedures are addressed at mark 24:40 before the aircraft finally comes in for a landing at mark 27:30.
The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was a carrier-based dive bomber aircraft produced for the United States Navy during World War II. It replaced the Douglas SBD Dauntless in US Navy service. The SB2C was much faster than the SBD it replaced.
Crew nicknames for the aircraft included the Big-Tailed Beast (or just the derogatory Beast), Two-Cee and Son-of-a-Bitch 2nd Class (after its designation and partly because of its reputation for having difficult handling characteristics). Neither pilots nor aircraft carrier captains seemed to like it.
Delays marred its production—by the time the A-25 Shrike variant for the USAAF was deployed in late 1943, the Army Air Forces no longer had a need for a thoroughbred dive bomber. Poor handling of the aircraft was another factor that hampered its service introductions; both the British Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force cancelled substantial orders.
The Truman Committee investigated Helldiver production and turned in a scathing report, which eventually led to the beginning of the end for Curtiss. Problems with the Helldiver were eventually ironed out, and in spite of its early problems, the aircraft was flown through the last two years of the Pacific War with a fine combat record.
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This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD, 2k and 4k. For more information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com