Hobbyboss 1/48 F8F-1 Bearcat
the Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat came on the scene too late to serve the U.S. Navy in WW11.. they were on the carriers halfway across the Pacific when the war with Japan ended…it was the fastest thing Grumman ever came up with to that point and pilots referred to it as an “engine with a saddle” as the engine weighed 3,000 lbs. and the rest of the plane about 5,500 lbs…it sported a terrific and unmatched climb rate of 4800 ft per minute, could exceed 10,000 ft in 94 seconds and it’s maneuverability was almost second to none… a 160 gallon fuel tank [later 183] behind the pilot gave it decent legs a 550 mile radius or 1100 miles straight,and you could add a 150 gallon belly tank but it could carry almost no payload as the wingtips could take no stress and even had to be folded for storage manually,which was awkward on a plane so high off the deck… it generally loaded out with two 1,000 lb bombs or four rockets and everything had to be carried on the stronger inboard part of the wing so there was really no room for any type of payload… a speedy interceptor.. it might have made a brilliant CAP platform especially in dealing with the Kamikaze threat… it could operate from the smallest escort carriers which the Hellcat was too heavy for and would have quickly replaced the obsolete Wildcats that used them, a massive upgrade for the fleet in 1945 with invasion Japan on the horizon ..it had a wingspan 7 foot smaller than the Hellcat and the fuselage was 5 foot shorter but it still had that 2,000 horse [2250 in the F-2] R-2800 Pratt & Whitney which made it scream in a climb and blow the doors off a Hellcat with the same power plant at 50 mph faster
some say it was copied from a captured Focke Wulf in England 1943 but in actuality the project was far toward completion when the captured FW 190 was tested there and at PAX River MD around 1944 a year later. … it actually evolved from the Gee Bee racer of the 1930″s that Jimmie Doolittle had so much success with in his racing days and test pilot and aircraft designer R.L. (Bob) Hall was involved in the development of both…the bubble canopy learned from the British gave it marvelous visibility in flight but it had no air-conditioning while the engine created massive heat in the cockpit and the canopy had to be closed at idle due to the exhaust pipes spewing oil all over the bubble… Grumman up to this point had a fierce reputation for bringing them back alive…when you see that Hellcat come in for a landing in “Victory at Sea” smash into the island and bust in half remember the pilot walked away from that terrible wreck… pilots where encased in bulletproof armour tubs meaning pilot safety was paramount to Grumman…much of this reputation was trashed for the sake of speed on the Bearcat though the cockpit was still armoured it was terribly easy for the novice pilot to overstress the airframe,..to make the plane lighter they failed to put enough strength in the outer folded up part of the wing as we just discussed in the payload stage…so they came up with the idea of having the outer wings sections shear off when the “G” forces reached 7.5 – 9 and might overwhelm the structural integrity of the inner wing part which could still bring them home safely, yet with no ailerons [help] some inexperienced pilots making bombing runs had the wingtips blow away and many augered right into the ground…imagine losing the wingtip in air-to-air combat or when making a carrier landing and tossing aircraft parts all over the deck hands or if you were flying wing as they came whizzing by…Grumman eventually did away with this feature but without it you could have a catastrophic, complete wing failure so “catch 22” if she was over stressed…the Bear never served in combat in the U.S. inventory as the Jet age was ushered in beside it and it showed little success with the French at Dien Bien Phu who tried to use it improperly as a bomber but Navy and Marine, in fact all pilots of all nationalities loved it because it was a banger in the interdiction role…the Navy was tickled pink with it, even Neil Armstrong sang it’s praises…years ago i read about an incident where some Marines flying the Bear invited some Army Air Force pilots in thier P-51D’s to a duel…the Bearcat was so powerful you only had to shove the balls 3/4 the way to the firewall before she lifted off, in fact it could launch from a carrier under its own power if need be with no “cat shot”…the Bear was in front at a disadvantage while the P-51D was revving its engine and standing on the brakes readying for a quick and dirty kill 15 foot above the runway…as soon as the Bearcat cleared the runway it did a barrel roll just feet above the tarmac, the 51 skirted past and the bear moved in on the mustangs six.. bang your dead…i think T.C. once brought it to my attention the Bear pilot was Marion Carl, Medal of Honor.
The cat finally made it to Reno in 1964 where it won many trophies and still flies today…Steve Hinton calls it his favorite warbird but that it could be terribly unforgiving…Hinton pointed out the Bearcat is “an airplane that can lure you into a false sense of security. Early in its career, the Bearcat went right into training squadrons, since the jets were right around the corner. So they had a lot of new guys flying these things, going really fast, pulling a lot of Gs, and they did have problems, including hard deck landings that transmitted into issues with fatigue and wings coming off.”/…”i’d call the F8f Bearcat an engineering hiccup more than a great plane but i would have loved to have seen it perform against the new generation of Japanese fighters, the George, Frank, Reppu and even the 2,000 horse Zeros that never debuted..around 1947 the Air Force lent a P-80 , possibly one of the worst performing jets in the U.S. inventory to the Navy and the P-80 smoked the F8f in the trials… urban myths say it could whip early jet fighters but the Banshee could take it out with little fanfare, so the way of the future was clearly marked…the huge power plant required an equally large prop to pull it through the air so the solution was to mount a prop only a foot smaller than the Corsair at 12′ 5” thus the spindly weak, high landing gear for prop ground clearance was another compromise for a carrier fighter and it was a prop eater if you didn’t land nose high…but it was a pilots airplane in the air
the kit is an f8f-1..and provides four beautiful 20mm cannons but there are no blisters on the wings to make them proper…the pilots were not happy with the four .50 cal machine guns and were denied a request for a six gun configuration do to weight restrictions so the later F-1’s and all F-2’s carried the Hispano Suiza cannon feature to give it more clout…this is the personal mount of Lt. A.M. “Mike” Granat, VF-3 1946…the “Felix the cat” nose art on the decal is twice as big as it should be and the instructions have you line it up with the #4 on the nose but the #4 is much lower than the squadron insignia on the real thing as you can see…i think it’s a beautiful kit in spite of the great cowl controversy.. i have a testors cowl and they are so close the Hawk being squared off at the bottom i didn’t feel any need to use it…i was much more satisfied with Hobbyboss than the Hawk kit i built a couple years back…no ordinance on mine as it was never really meant for any mission but interceptor… it couldn’t come close to the AD or F4U’s ground support payload that carried that mission in Korea and it surely didn’t want to tangle with the Panther, Sabre or Mig in the combat arena…some call it the finest piston fighter of all time but the Hawker Sea Fury, P-51H and late mark Spits may have had something to say about that…at any rate it was like showing up too late to a picnic when all the food, beer and girls are gone, as peace had suddenly broken out .. still a hands down favorite at airshows and among aviation enthusiasts worldwide and in all fairness it a had pretty fair safety record for such a whip…in 1988 i attended a Yeager speech at the Smithsonian…i asked him who would win in a showdown between the F8F and the P-51D…he replied the Bearcat had a little more scream and was slightly more maneuverable but that the P-51H could best it / but the “H” was a foot longer than the “D” / 600 lbs. lighter / had a different tail and fillet / different tail wheel configuration further back / much tighter nose profile and a completely different merlin from the Rolls Royce or Packard and very few parts shared any commonality between the “D” and “H”airframes / yet i now realize the Bear and P-51H would be a more fair comparison as they were more up to date generational contemporaries both a couple years younger than the P-51D