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N3N file photo [29758]


CountryUnited States
ManufacturerNaval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Primary RoleOther


ww2dbaseThe weighty N3N biplane was designed by the US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics in 1934 as a two-seat primary trainer for naval aviators. The N3N would be the most extensively built aircraft produced by the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States and was also be the last biplane to serve in the US armed forces when the last of the type was retired in 1961.

ww2dbaseThe N3N prototype first flew in August 1935. Provided with tandem seat open cockpits and fixed landing gear, it was constructed from steel tube and fabric with large removable fuselage panels to facilitate maintenance. A unique feature of the design was that the narrow fuselage was constructed using bolts and rivets rather than steel welds.

ww2dbaseSuccessful testing led to the production of 179 N3N-1 aircraft with first deliveries to the Navy commencing in June 1936. The prototype and the first 158 production aircraft were powered by 220-horsepower Wright J-5 radial, an obsolete engine which the US Navy had in store. One additional prototype was then ordered as the N3N-2 and one production aircraft was converted to XN3N-3 prototype configuration. Both of these were powered by a 240-horsepower Wright R-760-96 radial engine built by the US Navy. This engine would be used in the final twenty N3N-1s and, at a later date, all remaining N3N-1s had their J-5 engines replaced with R-760-2 engines.

ww2dbaseThe N3N-3 was the second production variant. Production commenced in 1938 and this model incorporated a revised tail unit and landing gear. It was powered by a 235-horsepower Wright J-6-7 (R-760) engine which was also retrospectively fitted to most of the earlier aircraft. While the N3N-1 aircraft had had tightly fitting engine cowlings the N3N-3 aircraft operated with exposed engines. Apart from four aircraft transferred to the US Coast Guard in 1941 the 816 N3N-3 biplanes built were used extensively by the US Navy throughout World War II as primary trainers.

ww2dbaseA number of N3N-3 aircraft were operated as floatplanes with a single central float and stabilising floats at the wingtips. A small number of N3N-3 floatplanes remained in service with the US Naval Academy until at least 1959. The US Navy would receive a total of 995 N3N aircraft which were known in service as the Canary or Yellow Peril. After the war, many surplus machines were "civilianised" and converted into crop sprayers. They were typically fitted with higher-powered engines such as the 600-horsepower Pratt and Whitney R1340 or 450-horsepower R985 Wasp Junior. The N3N aircraft remains popular with private owners and nearly 200 remain registered in the United States.

Rod Simpson: Airlife's World Aircraft (Airlife Publishing Ltd, 2001)
Hugo Wilkinson (Senior Editor): Machines of War (Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 2019)
World Aircraft Information Files, File 902/06 (Aerospace Publishing Periodical)

Last Major Revision: Apr 2020


MachineryOne Wright R-760-2 Whirlwind air-cooed 7-cylinder radial engine rated at 235hp
Armament2x0.5in machine guns, 2x20mm cannon, 2x250kg bombs
Span10.36 m
Length7.77 m
Height3.30 m
Wing Area28.33 m²
Weight, Empty948 kg
Weight, Loaded1,286 kg
Speed, Maximum203 km/h
Speed, Cruising145 km/h
Service Ceiling4,635 m
Range, Normal752 km


XN3N-1 aircraft, United States, circa 1930sXN3N-2 aircraft (Bureau Number 0265) in flight, United States, 1936
See all 24 photographs of N3N

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