The Curtiss C-30/ R4C-1 was a transport version of the Curtiss Condor II biplane transport aircraft, a rather outdated aircraft when it first appeared in 1933.
The Condor was developed by George Page as the Curtiss T-32, signifying that it was a Transport aircraft that could carry a 3,200lb payload. It was deliberately old fashioned when it was designed, and was producing in the hope that it could fill a gap in the market for aircraft less advanced than the new generation of all-metal monoplane transports, represented by the Boeing 247 and soon by the Douglas DC-2. The T-32 was a rather boxy aircraft, with an equally old fashioned fabric covered frame construction. It even used the same tubular wing spars as the earlier Condor 18, based on the B-2 bomber. Visually the T-32 looked like a standard airliner of the period apart from the upper wing – the fuselage had the same sort of curved shape as most airlines of the period with the twin engines built into the lower wings, and retractable undercarriage. Only its upper biplane wing made it look old fashioned.
The T-32 wasn’t a great success as a transport aircraft. Only twenty-one civil passenger aircraft were produced, all as twelve passenger sleepers. They were used by Eastern Air Transport and American Airways from 1933, but were phased out only three years later. However the T-32 was also the basis of a number of military variants, which raised the total production figure to 45.
The USAAC purchased two T-32s, which became the YC-30. They were delivered in May 1933 and were used as general transport aircraft until 1938. Their main claim to fame was as the last biplanes ordered by the USAAC. One took part in Admiral Byrd’s Antarctic expedition of 1933, when it was given a fixed main undercarriage that could also be used with floats or skis.
The R4C-1 was the designation given to two examples of the AT-32E deluxe day transport that were purchased by the US Navy in 1934. The AT-32E was powered by the 710hp SGR-1820-F3 Cyclone engine. The R4C was actually only the second Curtiss transport used by the Navy, but the designations R2C and R3C had already been used by the Navy’s Curtiss racing aircraft. Both aircraft were used by the Marines (with Marine Utility Squadron Seven from 1935), and then went to the US Antarctic Service in 1940. They were abandoned in Antarctica in 1941.
Four aircraft went to Britain, where they were taken into the RAF after the outbreak of war, with the serial numbers P5723 to P5726. However it appears that they were never actually used, and were scrapped while still with the RAF.
The BT-32 was a bomber variant produced for the export market. It could carry up to 1,680lb of bombs, some internally and some below the wings. It carried five machine guns – one in a manually operated nose turret, one in a turret above the rear fuselage, two through lateral gun ports and one in a glazed ventral position. Eight were built and seven sold. The prototype went to China, three two float seaplane versions when to Colombia and four landplane versions to Peru. One of these Peruvian aircraft was the last operational Condor and wasn’t scrapped until September 1956.
The CT-32 was a heavy cargo variant, with a large loading door in the starboard fuselage. Three were built and all went to the Argentine Army.
Engine: Two Wright R-1820F Cyclone engines
Crew: 2 plus 12 passengers
Length: 48ft 7in
Height: 16ft 4in
Empty weight: 12,235lb
Gross weight: 17,500lb
Max speed: 190mph
Cruising speed: 167mph
Climb Rate: 1,200ft/ min
Service ceiling: 23,000ft
Range: 716 miles