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The Curtiss Model 85 was the last heavy observation type to be purchased by the Army at $50,826.00 in 1939. The Owl was used for record-setting map and survey flights.
Inward folding doors in the observers cockpit provided for twin camera ports. A retractable turtle back, created for the SOCSeagull, was used to provide a maximum field of fire for the observers .30 cal machine gun.
The O-birds quickly fell from favor as they were an easy target and their duties were passed on to faster, more heavily armed fighter-bombers.
While in Brooks, Texas on January 10, 1942, it is of record that 2nd Lt. George Sloan ground looped while taxiing and severely damaged this aircraft.
Acquired by Yanks from the Experimental Aircraft Association and restored, this is the only airworthy Owl in existence.