By Joe Baugher
In 1934, Curtiss company began work on a two-seat, twin-engined attack aircraft as a private venture. The aircraft was known as Model 76 by the company. It was also known under the company name Shrike, which was a generic name applied by Curtiss to many of its attack aircraft.
Model 76 was a cantilever mid-winged monoplane of all-metal construction, but with fabric covering for the moveable control surfaces, as well as for the wing aft of the front spar. It was powered by a pair of air-cooled 775hp Wright R-1670-5 twin-row radials inside circular-cowled nacelles, driving twin-bladed, two-position propellers. The undercarriage retracted rearward into the back of the engine nacelles, but left half of each wheel exposed. The tailwheel was retractable, as well.
The pilot sat well forward under a sliding canopy, whereas the observer-gunner sat far in the rear under his own sliding canopy. The short nose had four .30 machine guns, and there was a single flexible .30 in the rear cockpit. A bomb load of 654# was carried internally in a fuselage bomb bay.
The aircraft took off on its first flight on July 17, 1935. Since it was a company-owned demonstrator, Model 76 carried a civil registration [X15314]. It was tested by the Army at Wright Field and then returned to Curtiss for shape and the installation of new constant-speed propellers. In Dec 1935, the Army purchased the Model 76 under the designation XA-14 [36-146].
Although its maximum speed of 254mph made it 10mph faster than the Consolidated P-30 two-seat fighter and 20mph faster than the Boeing P-26A single-seat fighter, the Army was reluctant to enter into any large-scale contract for the A-14 because of its high cost. In depression-ridden America, the $90,000 pricetag (without engines) made it much too expensive for a large-scale order. Nevertheless, 13 service test examples were ordered on July 23, 1936, powered by single-row Wright R-1820-47 Cyclones with three-bladed propellers. As was typical in those days, the change of engine resulted in a change of designation to Y1A-18.
Lacking any large-scale orders, Curtiss wanted to use the ship to set some aviation records, but instead decided in to use it to test a new 37mm cannon in June 1936. The sole XA-14 was scrapped in Aug 1938 after only 158 flight hours.
-- American Combat Planes, Third Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner (Doubleday 1982)
-- Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947, Peter M Bowers (Naval Institute Press 1979)
-- Grind 'em Out Ground Attack; The Search for the Elusive Fighter Bomber, Anson McCullough [Wings Aug 1995]
-- United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M Bowers (Smithsonian 1989)