The OS2U Kingfisher was the most common shipboard observation aircraft carried aboard US battleships during World War Two. While embarked they were usually stored and serviced while on their launch catapults. Here are three Kingfishers on the catapult of the battleship USS New York (BB-34) in 1943. The catapult is mounted to the top of New York’s midships twin 12″ turret. A rather interesting way to display three Kingfishers for an ambitious modeler!
To launch the aircraft, the catapults were turned into the relative wind, which helped produce additional lift. On the fast battleships two catapults were carried on the fantail and both could be pointed into the wind to launch aircraft across the deck, as is seen here. This is the USS Iowa (BB-61) sometime in 1943. (World War Photos)
The aircraft were launched with an 8″ black powder charge which gave the Kingfisher a velocity of 60 knots at the end of the run, enough for level flight. Here is an OS2U at the end of the catapult run. (Jeffrey Ethel Collection)
At the conclusion of the assigned mission, the aircraft would make a water landing and be hoisted back aboard. The ship would make a hard turn which helped flatten the sea for a smoother landing. Here is a Kingfisher a split second before landing, note the hook on the underside of the main float and the observer bracing himself for the jolt.
The OS2U had a small rudder at the end of the main float which gave it good maneuverability on the water. This view demonstrates that there was little reserve buoyancy. If the engine stopped, it could be re-started with a black powder charge similar to a shotgun shell.
The ship would tow a recovery “sled” in the water. The aircraft would taxi up to the sled, where the hook on the underside of the main float would engage a cargo net. This allowed the ship to tow the aircraft through the water during the recovery so it would not have to come to a stop.
The observer was responsible for securing the aircraft to the crane. Here he is attempting to remove a steadying line which has fouled the towing hook while the pilot tries to keep him from falling off the wing. This Kingfisher is being hoisted aboard the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38). The recovery sled is visible on the water.
Once hoisted free of the water, the aircraft would be placed back on the catapult and serviced. Here is a nice color shot taken during USS Missouri’s (BB-63) shakedown cruise.
In rough seas the operation was much more complicated, as this view taken from the USS South Dakota (BB-57) illustrates.
The Kingfisher could be easily overloaded. This is the OS2U of LTJG John Burns. Burns was operating from the USS North Carolina (BB-55) in the search and rescue role during the carrier strike on Truk on 01MAY44. He rescued a total of nine downed aviators, but his aircraft was too heavy to take off again. All the airmen were transferred to the USS Tang (SS-306) before the submarine sank the aircraft with gunfire. Burns received the Navy Cross for his actions.
Color Kingfisher photographs here: