Tag Archives: N3N

Welcome to The N3N Blog!

Welcome to the world of the N3N. If this is your first visit, check out the “ABOUT” page (above) to learn about the Naval Aircraft Factory N3N aircraft (and the blog name). Other popular pages are the “FLEET” page showing all the intact aircraft (over 75 80 85 90 95) that I have located thus far and we are continually adding content to the historic photos pages. (This post is a “sticky”, it will stay as the top post. New posts will appear below, newest first.)


New Article on the Naval Museum Website

nnam-header-logoThe website for the National Naval Aviation Museum has a feature under “Education” called “History Up Close”. There are a series of articles in that section on a wide range of historical topics. If you like Naval Aviation I recommend you browse through the section.

They added an article on the N3N in September of 2014 (I just found it…). The article does not have a lot of new information but it’s a good summary. Photos will be familiar to those who have been through our historical photos (or on the WIX N3N threads). Link to the article here:


N3N Record Setting – How is the “N” unique?

Three features of N3N history are commonly cited as record-setting:
1. The only aircraft that was both designed and built by the US Government
2. The last biplane in US Military Service (1960)
3. The longest serving biplane in US Military Service, 1935 – 1960 (25 years)

3022 NASM

But the BT-13 post below got me thinking about the survival rate of the N3N. The high survival rate is due to a combination of stout airframe (built like a bridge…) and commercial success, with some dusters working into the 1980s.

Only 816 N3N-3 aircraft were built. The FAA has 170-some registrations (it varies – I got 173 last time I run the list) and at least 6 are registered in other countries. So we have about 180 registrations, or some 22% of total production currently registered.

Does any other WWII era aircraft in volume production come close to a 22% survival rate? For this discussion lets set the “volume production” minimum as 100 units produced – to exclude limited production prototypes (i.e. 3 prototypes built, 1 survives – a 33% survival rate). For the BT-13 to match the N3N-3 percentage there would need to be over 2000 registrations. Or how about 3400 T-6/SNJ/Harvard registrations?

Any other Record-Setting features of our favorite aircraft?
– Is it the only fabric covered, all aluminum aircraft (most fabric aircraft have welded-tube steel fuselage)?
– Is it the first all-aluminum structure primary trainer for the US military?
– Is it the only convertible Land/Sea primary trainer ever produced? (The OJ-1 was a fleet aircraft, not a trainer)

Please chime in with any thoughts and comments…

My Birthday Present – and the BT-13

My brother gave me a Commemorative Air Force calendar for my birthday. I flipped through the year to see what aircraft were included. How about this aircraft – a BT-13 – for July:


For those of you who don’t familiar with the story, the postwar history of the BT-13 and the N3N are interwoven in an interesting way.

Surplus military aircraft were very cheap after World War II. A few hundred dollars could get you an aircraft. But what to do with them? Some aircraft were easily repurposed, such as the N3N which made a capable (and durable) agricultural aircraft. Others – such as the BT-13 – were almost useless. This is not to imply that there was anything wrong with the aircraft, just that no one could figure out a profitable civilian use for the aircraft.

As it turns out, the N3N had two weaknesses as an “ag” aircraft: The Bendix wheels / Lockheed brakes were not up to the job and the Wright J6-7 engine with only 235 horsepower limited the payload. The BT-13 had disc brakes and a Pratt and Whitney R-985 (at 450 hp). So a lot of surplus BT-13 aircraft were flown out to the desert, stripped of their engines, wheels/brakes/tires and rudder pedals and just left there.

Here is an accurately restored N3N showing off the original 30 x 5 wheels and Wright engine:

N3N-3 Taxi Test

Here is the “business end” of an N3N ag aircraft with the BT-13 wheels and P&W engine:

N45159 2994

If you go through the agricultural photo page here you will see that there are no photos of ag aircraft using the Bendix wheels. A few early dusters are shown with the Wright engine, but those are infrequent  (and I suspect all are before the end of the war).

A big reason why such a large percentage of N3Ns survive today is that they were profitable aircraft for decades. The BT-13 is a rare aircraft today even though over 9500 were built. So the high survival rate of the N3N fleet owes a debt to the BT-13 for the sacrifice that made the “N” the commercial success that is was.

N3N 80th Anniversary – OSHKOSH 2015

UPDATE, January 2015:
With the new year we are starting to get reports from those who are planning to make the trip. I am listing those who are currently planning on being at OSH and those who are thinking about it. Please let me know if you planning on making the trip – I want to give a heads-up to the Warbirds flightline manager as early as possible.

1911 (N1940N)
1926 (N44963)
2734 (N45222)
2896 (N2896)
3032 (N44843)
4421 (N45035)

2781 (N44741)
2865 (N773N)

Now that Oshkosh 2014 is over, lets begin planning an 80th anniversary celebration at Oshkosh 2015!

We have had lots of birds at OSH over the years (pictures below), but how about if we put together “the big one” for the 80th anniversary of the N3N first flight (August 23rd, 1935)?
OSH Crop2865 OSH1994 20113060 19901926 20114448 20072734 Oshkosh 2011 with 20%1760 OSH 20044421 2007a

This may be the last major get-together for some of our current owners.  I don’t want to be a “downer”, but more than a few of today’s owners will not make the trip to Airventure 2035 for the 100th anniversary of the N3N.

A co-worker of mine is Airventure warbirds flightline co-chair. He says he can reserve a row in Warbirds for the N3N if we tell him before the Airventure winter planning meeting.

What do you say?  It would be wonderful if we could get 10 or 12 aircraft to Airventure 2015.  I know that most of you are unfamiliar with commenting on blogs, but I really need to hear from you on this one! Click on “Leave a Reply” at the top of this post to leave your thoughts or send me an email (shown on the “Contact Us” page.  I will start making a contact list and get an aircraft count.

P.S. If one of you “not so young” owners doesn’t want to fly solo to OSH, I would be glad to fill the other cockpit and “spell” you. I haven’t made a tail-dragger landing in about 40 years (first solo was in a Cub), but I can keep the wings level and maintain a heading on two hour legs.


This post will be a sticky for a while. New posts will display below this post.

New listing on the Rides page – Dual Available

N42745 (bureau #4383) has a new home at Van Sant airport in Pennsylvania.  As the new owners point out, she is based about 50 miles north of where she was built seventy-some years ago.

4383 Tug

She is available for rides AND dual instruction.  What a great way to get your tailwheel endorsement!

Link to the Van Sant Historic Airfield website, rates are the same as the… um… “N2S”: Van Sant Historic Airfield

N3N Cartoon from Annapolis, 1947

Reader Mike is beginning work on a digital model of the N3N for X-Plane or FSX (MS Flight Simulator Version 10+).  We have been corresponding on paint schemes and other items.

He sent me this cartoon, drawn in 1947 by some budding artist in Training Squadron VN8 (the Naval Academy N3N squadron) with some extra time on his hands.  Enjoy!


(click on the photo to see a larger image)

Marsh Aviation N3N Postcard

I recently picked up an old Marsh Aviation postcard. It pictures an “N” and the phrase “If it’s a silver airplane with a yellow nose it’s Marsh Aviation”. It was printed on a linen-like surface by Western Lithograph in Los Angeles.

This is a high-resolution scan – you can click on the photo to enlarge.

Marsh Website

On the reverse side it says “There is no substitute for experience. If it has been done on the farm by an airplane, Marsh has done it. Crop Dusting, Liquid Spray, Seeding, Defoliating, Selective Weed Control and Fertilizing.

I will be adding this to the Ag Aircraft page as well.