Though the F4U Corsair may be best known as the airplane flown by Maj. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, the F4U enjoyed many other roles as well and in many areas of the world.
In 1938, the U.S. Navy sought the development of a single-seat aircraft carrier based fighter plane. When Chance-Vought earned the contract they designed the F4U to take advantage of the largest engine then available. The Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine required a large propeller. To accommodate the necessary prop clearance, high landing gear was incorporated into the design. The airplane’s distinctive gull wing design was necessary in order to make room for the wheels.
On May 29, 1940, the Corsair made its inaugural flight. However, it wasn’t until more than two years later on July 31, 1942 that the design issues were worked out and the fighter plane was finally ready for production. This version of the plane was designated F4U-1A.
Its unique features required more training on the part of pilots than most carrier-based aircraft, but the U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm all had F4U Corsairs among its fighter aircraft. The airplane proved especially popular to various military forces because of its ability to launch off aircraft carriers and perform fighting as well as bombing missions.
In fact, it proved so popular that Vought had to enlist other manufacturers’ help in producing the aircraft. Vought authorized the Brewster Company to produce the F3A-1 version of the Corsair and for the Goodyear Company to produce the FG-1 version.
In 1952, production of the aircraft ended but not without displaying the following impressive specifications.
Maximum speed: 420 mph at 20,000ft
Cruise speed: 185 mph
Range: 1,015 miles (1,634 km)
Ceiling: 37,000 ft.
Length: 33 ft 4 in (10.1 m)
Wingspan: 41ft. 0in.
Height: 16 ft 1 in (4.90 m)
Maximum weight: 14,000 lbs
Empty weight: 8,980 lbs
Engine(s): 2,000hp Pratt and Whitney R-2800-8 radial piston engine
Rate of climb: 3,100 feet/min.
Crew: one pilot
Armament: Six 12.7mm (0.50 in) machine guns, wing-mounted.
Contractor: Vought, Brewster Company, Goodyear Company
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