Divers Recover A Navy Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver Aircraft


  Bookmark and Share

Divers Recover A Navy Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver Aircraft

Mike Mitchell

August 21, 2010 - In March 2009, a fishermen, Duane Johnson while using a fish finder in search of bass fish in the Lower Otay Reservoir, San Diego County, California, stubble upon what appeared on his fish finder scope as an outline of an aircraft. Johnson notified authorities which led divers to a Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver aircraft which was a carrier-based dive bomber aircraft produced for the United States Navy during World War II.  

Just over a year later on August 20, 2010, through the coordination of the City of San Diego, Navy, and the California Office of Historic Preservation and several attempts, the Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver was raised out of the Lower Otay Reservoir and taken to the Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida were the aircraft will be restored and exhibited at the museum. 

The naval pilot, Ensign E.D. Frazar, a Texas-born aviator, at the time was stationed at Brown Field, a Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) in San Diego, California. Brown Field which is now called Brown Field Municipal Airport was named in honor of United States Navy Commander Melville S. Brown, who was killed in an airplane crash in 1936. 

On May 28, 1945, Ensign Frazar and Army Technical Sergeant Joseph M. Metz went on a training exercise onboard a navy aircraft carrier, the USS Wasp CVS-18 (ten ships of the United States Navy have borne the name USS Wasp, after the stinging insect) which was off the cost of San Diego Bay. 

Frazar and Metz took off from the USS Wasp and flew east toward the Lower Otay Reservoir in their single engine Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver aircraft to practice training maneuvers at 1,500 feet. While pulling out of a practice dive bombing run, Frazar encountered engine problems, his engine stopped running.

Frazar tried to restart the motor but with no success. Given the mountainous terrain, Frazar decided to crash land the aircraft into the Lower Otay Reservoir. Frazar called out his mayday signal and then was able to belly land the aircraft without severely damaging the aircraft and he and Metz were able to climb out f the aircraft and swim to safety. The Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver aircraft then sank 85 feet to the bottom of the Lower Otay Reservoir. 

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. Despite its size, 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).  

Navy pilot E. D. Frazar before boarding an SB2C-4 elldiver. Frazar was the pilot of the Helldiver that ditched into the Lower Otay Reservoir on May 28,1945.  

Neither pilots nor aircraft carrier skippers seemed to like it. Although production problems persisted throughout its combat service, it was reported that some pilots soon changed their minds on the effectiveness the Helldiver. Delays marred its production. Built for the USAAF as the A-25 Shrike, by the time it was delivered it was no longer required. Substantial orders by the British Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force were both cancelled due to the poor handling of the aircraft. The Truman Committee investigated Helldiver production and turned in a scathing report, it was the beginning of the end for the Curtiss. However, in spite of its problem, the aircraft was flown through the last two years of the Pacific War with a fine combat record, due to the high training of its crews.


Other News Stories

Home Aviation News Aviation Stories Of Interest FAA Exam Upcoming Events Links To Other Sites General Aviation Helicopters Medical Factors Facing Pilots
Maintenance and Aircraft Mechanics Hot Air Balloon Aviation Training Handbooks Read Online Aviation History Legal Issues In Aviation Sea Planes Editorials
 ?AvStop Online Magazine                                                                 Contact Us                                                  Return To News                                          Bookmark and Share


AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine

Grab this Headline Animator