The Boeing F2B was the second generation of Boeing fighters to enter service with the US Navy, and was the first to be powered by a radial engine. The Navy first experimented with radial engines on the Boeing FB-4 (a Naval version of the Boeing PW-9). This used a Wright P-1 engine, which proved to be unsuited for fighter use, but the advantages of the radial engine were clear - it was more robust and easier to maintain than an inline engine, two attributes that were very useful on carrier aircraft. The prototype FB-4 was rebuilt to use a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine as the FB-6. Plans were put in place to produce a Wasp-powered FB-7, but the Navy then decided that the PW-9/ FB airframe was reaching the end of its life.
Work then moved onto the Boeing Model 69. This used the fuselage from the Boeing XP-8 (Model 66), a fighter than had failed to get an Army contract, and a 425hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine. The prototype had a large spinner for the propeller. The new aircraft used the same basic construction methods as the FB, with a welded steel fuselage, wooden frame for the wings, both covered with fabric. The lower wing was nearer in span to the upper wing than had been the case on the XP-8 or PW-9/ FB. Both wings were tapered. The lower wing had a straight front and a curved back, the upper wing had straight edges. The lower wing was carried just below the lower longerons of the fuselage, and so a centre section had to be designed to link the two wing panels.
The Model 69 was a single-bay biplane with N struts between the wings. It has a split axle main landing gear and a tail skid.
The prototype made its maiden flight on 3 November 1926 and was given the designation XF2B-1. The Navy placed an order for 32 and give the new aircraft the designation F2B-1. Production aircraft were very similar to the prototype, but without the large spinner and with a balanced rudder. The F2B-1 had a divided axle undercarriage, but early aircraft were given a spreader-bar that linked the wheels. This was designed to carry hocks for use with the deck wires that ran along the flight decks of US carriers to help keep the light-weight biplanes in line.
Deliveries of the F2B-1 began on 30 January 1928. The aircraft was used by Navy Squadrons VF-1B (fighter) and VB-2B (bomber) on USS Saratoga.
The F2B-1 saw no combat with the US Navy, but it was used by the Three Sea Hawks, a navy aerobatic team. One of their tricks was to tie the wing tips of their three aircraft together with 50ft ropes and take-off, manoeuvre and land in such close formation that the ropes remained intact for the entire show.
Boeing also produced an export version of the fighter, the Model 69-B, but only sold two - one to Brazil (crashing while being flown to the country) and one to Japan.
Boeing F2B-1 (Model 69)
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R-1340-B Wasp radial piston engine
Span: 30ft 1in