Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Thursday, August 21, 2014

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014: F-8F Bearcat First Flight Anniversary

Fred Harl and Carmelo Turdo we recognize the first flight of the Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat prototype (Grumman Model G-58) on August 21, 1944.  The new fighter was flown from the company's facility at Bethpage, New York by Grumman test pilot Robert Hall.  The Bearcat was designed to be 20% lighter than the company's Hellcat production fighter while using the same  P&W R2800-34W Double Wasp 18-cylinder engine rated at 2400hp.  This combination resulted in an interceptor with higher maximum speed and greater rate of climb than its predecessor that could be used on smaller aircraft carriers.   It was armed with four .50 caliber machine guns, and later models sported four 20mm cannon and night fighter radar.  The Bearcat first entered service in May of 1945 as World War II came to a close, and nearly 1300 aircraft were produced through 1949 to serve as a valuable U.S. Navy fighter until the early 1950s.  It was then replaced in front-line service by the McDonnell Banshee and Grumman Panther jet fighters.  France used their Bearcats during the early years of their Indochina campaign, and some of those aircraft were transferred to South Vietnamese Air Force. 

The aircraft had some unusual design features.  Every effort was made to save weight, including the reduction of armament to four Browning .50 caliber machine guns.  A lighter wing structure was used, potentially making the aircraft wings vulnerable to failure.  The Grumman engineers developed a unique way of addressing that possibility: detachable wing tips.  It was determined that under high-g loads, the wing tips would break off and prevent damage to the rest of the wing.  Explosive charges were later added to ensure that the pilot could jettison a wing tip if only one separated during maneuvering.  There were incidents when the detachable wingtips caused fatal crashes and injury to ground crewmen, and this feature was eliminated during the aircraft's production service life.

Due to its light weight and excellent performance for a piston-engine fighter, the Bearcat
was chosen by air racing teams at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada. The Bearcat was also chosen by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team for the 1946-1949 seasons.  On the current airshow circuit, pilot/owner John O'Connor tours with his F8F-2 Bearcat sporting the Blue Angels paint scheme.  Below are some photos from EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014 illustrating this aircraft following an historical photo from the U.S. Navy Blue Angels archive:

(U.S. Navy photo)


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