O-2 Observation Biplane

O-2 observation biplane on runwayThe Douglas O-2 observation biplane, with its longer wings, had lower landing speeds, flew higher and was 22 mph faster than its competitors. The O-2, produced for the U.S. Army Air Service, was the first of a series that remained in production for nine years.

Douglas designed its first experimental observation aircraft, the XO-2, in 1923 and delivered 45 of the first production version, the O-2. On Feb. 16, 1925, a contract was signed for 75 of the O-2 type, the largest single contract in terms of production units the company had yet received.

An O-2BS, made for pilot James McKee, made the first single-aircraft, single-pilot flight across Canada. Because of the many Canadian rivers and lakes, twin floats were installed on the landplane. Between Sept. 11 and 19, 1926, McKee flew the 3,000 miles between Montreal and Vancouver in 35 hours and 8 minutes, at an average speed of 85 mph. The plane later was modified as a three-seater and used by the Canadian government until January 1930 as a high-altitude photographic survey aircraft.

Later O-2 variants had a more streamlined fuselage and a two-blade metal propeller instead of the previous wooden propeller. Some were modified as basic trainers by adding flight controls and instruments to the rear cockpit.

During the '20s and early '30s, the Douglas observation biplanes were among the most important American military aircraft. During the 1934 airmail emergency, Douglas biplanes flew the U.S. airmail routes for 78 days. Between 1923 and 1936, the company sold 879 in the series, one as a civil aircraft, 108 to foreign air forces and 770 to the U.S. military services.

Specifications
First flight: Autumn 1924
Wingspan: 39 feet
Length: 29 feet 7 inches
Height: 10 feet 6 inches
Ceiling: 12,275 feet
Range: 400 miles
Weight: 4,985 pounds
Power plant: 435-horsepower Liberty engine
Speed: 103 mph
Accommodation: Two
Armament: Two .30-caliber machine guns, 100 pounds of bombs