In May of 1925, the mighty airship USS Los Angeles (ZR-3) paid a call to the steamy waters of Puerto Rico where, as it swung lazily from its tender, USS Patoka, it attracted quite a crowd. Judging by the number of rowboats, I would guess a tidy business was underway where, for the right price, one could get a closer look at the giant airship.
First flown in 1925, the XPB-1 with its all-metal hull seemed promising enough, but was plagued by difficulties with its liquid-cooled engines.
Despite the engine problems, the rugged XPB-1 was retained for testing purposes by the navy who eventually replaced the original motors with radials. Still, there was only one built.
Under the tropical skies of the Olongapo Seadrome on Subic Bay, men of Patrol Squadron 101 stand before one of their PBY-4 aircraft. By the time this photo was taken in very late 1941, war clouds were gathering over the western pacific. In response, VP-101 has hastily camouflaged their aircraft; this is easily seen on the OS2U Kingfisher on the right. Soon, the squadron would be at war. Very few of the men pictured will avoid death or capture in the coming weeks and months.
Posing proudly before their PBY at NAS North Island in the fall of 1937 are the men of VP-3. Of additional interest are the large numbers of enlisted pilots (note the wings on their chests). VP-3 had already racked up some impressive achievements with their new patrol bombers.
The PBY shattered no existing speed records, but that being said, with its single wing, no landing gear, and a minimum of external braces all contributing to fairly low drag, the early PBY was, by 1937 standards, a speedy enough machine. Its rated top speed was only 170 knots, but this was comparable to most fighter aircraft of the period, they mostly being biplanes with fixed landing gear.
The F3F had a number of nicknames, all of which seemed related to its appearance. Nevertheless, it was rugged, reliable, and pretty quick. It was also the last biplane fighter ordered by the US military. The first two photos show VF-4 out for a cruise above California in the late 1930’s. Numbers are 261, 228, 235
Here we see marines of VMF-2 out for a drive in the F3F-2. This second model had a bigger motor and is therefore quickly identified by the size of the engine cowl. Numbers are 973, 977, and 979.