The Curtiss PN-1 was an experimental night fighter of 1921 that didn’t live up to expectations.
The PN-1 was designed by the Army’s Engineering Division, to satisfy their requirement for a night fighter. It became the first aircraft to use the 1919-20 designation system, which replaced the use of individual manufacturer’s designations. PN-1 stood for Pursuit, Night, 1.
The PN-1 was somewhat inspired by the successful Fokker D.VII, one of the most successful German aircraft of the second half of 1918. The fuselage shape was similar, with flat sides, curved upper and lower sections at the front, with the engine cylinders jutting up above the forward fuselage. The central wing struts were also similar, with a series of struts going from the base of the fuselage out to support the upper wing. The PN-1 was powered by a Liberty 6 engine. Several captured D.VIIs had been converted to use this engine after the war. The PN-1 was also the first Curtiss aircraft to have a welded steel tube fuselage, again taken from the D.VII.
The first prototype (63276) was built with cantilevered wings, without any interplane wing struts. However it quickly became clear that the wings were not rigid enough for this to work, and it was given steel tube N-struts, making it look even more like the D.VII. Very long exhausts were fitted to get the flames from the engines behind the pilot, in order to preserve their night vision.
The first prototype was delivered for tests in August 1921. Its performance was disappointed, and as a result the second aircraft (63277) was used for static tests, and the third (63278) was cancelled before being built.
Engine: Liberty 6
Span: 30ft 10in
Length: 23ft 6in
Height: 10ft 3in
Empty weight: 1,631lb
Gross weight: 2,311lb
Max speed: 108mph
Climb Rate: 6,500ft in 5m 30sec
Service ceiling: 23,900ft
Endurance: 255 miles
Armament: Two .30in Browning machine guns