Originally designed and developed as combat aircraft intended for military use, the CT-37 instead ended up in the hands of the Air Pirates.
The CT-37 is a small floatplane built with a biplane wing configuration, the only fighter plane to do so since the end of the Great War. The wings are attached to the sides of the plane and are connected by metal braces for stability. The plane is 15 feet in length.
Instead of landing gear, the CT-37 uses pontoons mounted on the bottom of each wing brace. While the pontoons allow for water landings, they have a tendency to gain momentum during fast maneuvers, making the plane difficult to steer at times. In addition, the rocker-like shape of the pontoons' undersides can cause the plane to flip over during landings if the nose section is positioned too far forward.
The plane has a standard tail assembly, albeit with a large rudder, the design of which allowing for very quick side-slipping (turning maneuvers using only the rudder). However, the rudder is powerful enough that even the slightest correction would put the plane in an uncontrollable spinning dive.
Working in unison, the CT-37's wing surfaces allows for extraordinary maneuverability rivaling that of Khan Industries' Panther fighters.
With the exception of the standard blue and brown colorways, pirate-operated CT-37s are much different than they originally were. Several of them boast new components, as many have replaced or salvaged parts in them, all have had something done to the controls and instruments, and a select few have been completely overhauled — although operations of this degree are considered a luxury to the parts-hungry Air Pirates.
The pirate fighters are used frequently in shipping raids and in combat with air patrol planes. As a consequence, the CT-37s have the lowest survival rate of any one-man aircraft in service. Though several planes a month are lost to gunfire, crashes, or even ordinary wear and tear, the Air Pirates always appear to have an endless supply of them — at least enough at any one time for each pirate to use. This suggests the notion that the pirates may actually construct their own CT-37s from scratch, or at the least, salvage enough parts from the wrecks to rebuild them.
Each pirate, to some extent, personalizes the plane that he pilots. While each pirate-modified CT-37 carries illegal radio equipment, other custom features can also be incorporated into it. Some pirates install homemade ejection seats, while others placed makeshift bomb racks onto the underside of their planes. Very few pirates add a custom paint job to their planes, mostly because they lack sufficient rank to do so.
The most important modifications, however, are those done to the armaments. Originally, the CT-37 came standard equipped with two 20mm caliber cannons mounted on the wing stabilizers. Observers claim that the guns on the fighters have not been replaced, and that they were modified to use various types of ammunition — an important innovation, since the pirates' raids seldom provide them with the one unique type of ammo that the guns had originally required.
The most notable modification to the CT-37 involves the addition of a third pair of wings to the airframe, resulting in a CT-37 with an extremely rare triplane wing configuration. The only known CT-37 to feature a third pair of wings is Don Karnage's personal plane, the Tri-Wing Terror, which is equipped with four additional cannons for increased firepower.
While the CT-37 has its fair share of advantages, it also has its weaknesses. The plane's most critical design flaw lies in its construction; The engine, fuel tank, and cockpit are all packed into the fuselage, making a large portion of the plane vulnerable to attack. A few well-placed shots up the underside, and the CT-37 goes down in flames.
The plane's powerplant is also a critical fault. The Viper Turbo-1 engine performs well enough during normal flight, but steep climbs have an unknown effect on the fuel manifold and air intakes, making it stall in midair.
The Pirate Fighter returns in DuckTales, this time with a redesign. Instead of floatplanes, they are now flying boats. While they have a biplane wing configuration, as with the original from TaleSpin, the engine is now positioned in a separate nacelle built into the upper wing.
- The CT-37 is sometimes depicted with conventional landing gear while parked in the Iron Vulture.