F4U Corsair General History
The F4U Corsair was built in one state, by one company... Connecticut's United Aircraft Corporation (UTC)
In 1938, the US Navy issued a request for a new single-seat carrier-based fighter. The Corsair won the contract with its unique, inverted gull-winged airframe designed by the Chance-Vought Aircraft Division of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and powered by the largest engine then available, the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp.
By April 1939, space constraints within factories at Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Standard, and Chance Vought in East Hartford and the demise of the flying boat business at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford made it sensible to consolidate the two airframe-producing divisions in the nearly vacant Stratford plant, giving birth to Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft.
The first prototype of the Corsair, the XF4U-1, (serial # 1443) was flown on May 29, 1940 in Stratford, CT. In one of its earliest trials, the Corsair flashed over a speed course in level flight from Stratford, CT to Hartford, CT at 405 miles-an-hour. This record, achieved with full military equipment was matched by no other fighter aircraft. Vought-Sikorsky and its licensees produced 12,751 F4U Corsairs between 1940 and 1952.
Vintage photos of the Corsair assembly line at the Vought-Sikorsky plant in Stratford, CT - circa 1942. The aircraft was assembled in the 1/2 mile long building with a daily completion rate of _____. The aircraft rolled out and had to be taxied to the air strip across the street.
Because the Corsair was designed for battle, it took a war to precipitate it into lasting fame – a war, and a host of brave Marine, Navy, British, Canadian and New Zealand pilots. Among the pilots who rode Corsairs to fame are Lt. Col. Gregory (Pappy) Boyington, Maj. Ken Walsh, Commander Tommy Blackburn, Jack Bolt, Charles Lindbergh. Besides its aerodynamic beauty, the Corsair served notice on the aviation world as an awesome aerial weapon gaining it numerous nicknames including Whistling Death, the Sweetheart of Okinawa, The Bent-Wing Bird; Ensign Eliminator; Horseshoe; Super Stuka; U-Bird; Hose Nose; and Hog.
(Left) Chance-Vought Chief Engineer, Rex Beisel with the then Major Gregory (Pappy) Boyington in 1942. Of the 12,751 Corsairs built by Chance-Vought Aircraft between 1939 and 1952, Rex Beisel was quoted as saying, "The difficult we do immediately. The impossible will take a week, ten days at the most." Pappy Boyington is best known for his exploits in the Vought F4U Corsair while Commanding Officer of VMF-214 (the "Black Sheep Squadron") beginning in spring, 1942. He quickly became an ace before being shot down during a fighter sweep over Rabaul in January 1944 and remained a Japanese prisoner of war for the duration of the war.
(Right) Because of his outspoken anti-war sentiments during WWI, Charles Lindbergh arrived secretly in the Pacific Theater in April 1944. There he tested the F4U Corsair. He demonstrated that the Corsair could carry double the bomb-load originally thought possible. He also discovered that dive-bombing with that load was not possible. In the South Pacific area Lindberg corrected the problems of the “whistling death” and Marines agreed to take him on a mission to Rabual. This was the first of 14 missions Lindberg few with the Marines.
The Corsair’s unprecedented production life, longer than that of any fighter in history, was the last piston-engine fighter built in the United States. Among the array of early models built were the F4U-1; F4U-1D, equipped with pylons for carrying bombs; the F4U-2, a night fighter; and the F4U-3, turbo-supercharger version for high altitude experimental work. These earliest variants were followed by the F4U-4; F4U-5; F4U-5N; F4U-5NL, a winterized version inspired by the frigid Korean air war; and the AU-1 a low-altitude attack version (which would have been the F4U-6 but for the Navy changing its designation system),. The final Corsair, the F4U-7 was built for the French Navy and signaled the end of production for the historic U-bird.
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