Curtiss-Wright and the P-40

The Curtiss-Wright Corporation was established in 1929 after a merger of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor
Company and Wright Aeronautical Company. During the 1930s and 40s the firm produced not only aircraft, but
aircraft engines and propellers as well, earning for itself status as the largest U.S. military aircraft
contractor during the Second World War, as well as the second-largest U.S. defense contractor, with contracts
totalling $7.09 billion, USD. But it was due to Curtiss' airframe production that the company's name became
synonymous with the words 'Hawk', 'Shrike' and, to a somewhat lesser extent, 'Helldiver'.

As such, many well-known aircraft were produced by Curtiss-Wright's Airplane Division, including the P-6 'Hawk,
P-36, P-40 'Warhawk', SB2C 'Helldiver' and C-46 'Commando'. The P-40 was undoubtedly the most famous of these,
and although not the greatest performer of all U.S. wartime fighter aircraft, it was not as bad a ship as many
would have you believe. It was also pretty much the only fighter that was available in quantity when the country
went to war. The P-40 served in every theater of war at one time or another, being used by the U.S.A. and most
of its allies right up to the end of the war and, in some cases, beyond. Despite its obsolescence, the P-40
established an outstanding combat record... quite often faring very well against supposedly superior foes.

In addition to its impressive operational record, the P-40 was also instrumental in preparing thousands of
fighter pilots for combat... being heavily utilized by advanced and operational training units in the U.S.A.
Although often destined to fly more advanced types in actual combat, many a fighter pilot had his first taste
of a truly high-performance fighter aircraft while sitting in the cockpit of a P-40.

The final production count for the P-40 was 13,738, making it the third most produced US fighter of the Second
World War after the P-47 and the P-51. Sadly, it was to be the last of the production Hawks.

Aside from the type's significant contribution to the Allied war effort, it has also become something of a
cultural icon. Partly due to the fact that it was our primary Army Air Corps fighter aircraft at the outbreak
of war, and for at least all of 1942, the P-40 was arguably the most well-known U.S. fighter to the average
American during the war years and immediate post-war period. But it may also very well be that the P-40
is the most recognized WWII aircraft in the world, even today, if only because of its association with
the first American Volunteer Group in China... better known as the 'Flying Tigers'.


For more reading on Curtiss and the P-40, I recommend the following web pages...

The Curtiss-Wright Corporation

Curtiss-Wright - Our History: The Spirit of Innovation

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Tomahawk, Kittyhawk

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My Grandfather worked at Curtiss-Wright in Buffalo, New York.


Interested in other Curtiss aircraft?


Check out some issues of The Curtiss Fly Leaf...


Feast your eyes on some lovely ladies from Buffalo, NY circa 1944...

Miss Warhawk 1944


The Curtisschmitt