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US Marine Corps N3N-3 over Parris Island, 1942
National origin United States
Manufacturer Naval Aircraft Factory
First flight August 1935[1]
Introduction 1936
Retired 1961
Primary user U.S. Navy
Number built 997

The N3N was a United States two tandem-seat, open cockpit, primary training biplane aircraft built by the Naval Aircraft Factory (N.A.F.) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the 1930s.

Development and design[edit | edit source]

Built to replace the Consolidated NY-2 and NY-3, the N3N was successfully tested as both a conventional airplane and a seaplane.[1] The seaplane used a single float under the fuselage and floats under the outer tips of the lower wing. The conventional airplane used a fixed landing gear. The prototype XN3N-1 was powered by a radial Wright designed Wright J-5 engine. An order for 179 production aircraft was received.[1] Near the end of the first production run the engine was replaced with the Wright R-760-2 Whirlwind radial.

Operational history[edit | edit source]

The N.A.F. delivered 997 N3N aircraft beginning in 1935. They included 180 N3N-1s and 816 N3N-3s. Four N3N-3s were delivered to the United States Coast Guard in 1941. Production ended in January 1942 but the type remained in use through the rest of World War II. The N3N was the last biplane in US military service - the last (used by the U.S. Naval Academy for aviation familiarization) were retired in 1961. The N3N was also unique in that it was an aircraft designed and manufactured by an aviation firm wholly owned and operated by the U.S. government (the Navy, in this case) as opposed to private industry. For this, the Navy bought the rights and the tooling for the Wright R-760 series engine and produced their own engines. These Navy built engines were installed on Navy built airframes. A Navy N3N was used as a crop sprayer in Alfred Hitchcock's film North by Northwest though after impact with the fuel tanker the wreckage is seen to be a Boeing Stearman.

Variants[edit | edit source]

N3N production in 1937

First prototype aircraft, Bureau of Aeronautics number 9991.
Two-seat primary trainer biplane, powered by a 220-hp (164-kW) Wright J-5 radial piston engine. 179 were built.
One prototype only (Bureau number 0265) powered by a 240-hp (179-kW) Wright R-760-96 radial piston engine.
One production N3N-1 (0020) was converted into a 'dash three' prototype.
Two-seat primary trainer biplane, powered by a 235-hp (175-kW) Wright R-760-2 Whirlwind 7 radial piston engine. 816 built.[1]

Operators[edit | edit source]

US Marine Corps N3N-3, 1942.

United States

Specifications (N3N-3)[edit | edit source]

US Navy N3N-1 floatplane.

N3N on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation

Data from Holmes, 2005. p. 96.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 25 ft 6 in (7.77 m)
  • Wingspan: 34 ft 0 in (10.36 m)
  • Height: 10 ft 10 in (3.3 m)
  • Wing area: 305 ft2 (28.3 m2)
  • Empty weight: 2,090 lb (948 kg)
  • Gross weight: 2,792 lb (1,266 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Wright R-760-2 Whirlwind radial, 235 hp (175 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 126 mph (203 km/h)
  • Range: 470 miles (756 km)
  • Service ceiling: 15,200 ft (4,635 m)

Communications were done by the instructor through a speaking tube to the aft-seated student. Communications back were agreed-upon gestures.[2]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Holmes, 2005. p. 98.
  2. [1]
  • Holmes, Tony (2005). Jane's Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-719292-4. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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