By Tommy H. Thomason

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why 27 feet six inches?

The A4D Skyhawk's wings did not fold, with the wing span limited to the maximum folded dimension, 27' 6". The question is, what established that number? It seems to have been a BuAer-issued limit, since at least four of the J65-powered single seat tactical jets proposed at that time had folded wing spans within a few inches of that dimension.

My first guess was that it was established by the then-standard forward Essex-class elevator, which was 58' by 44'. Two Skyhawk loaded side-by-side athwartships with one foot between them and one-foot clearance on each side (yes, that is the standard minimum clearance) equals 58'. Length was not a problem. However, that turned out to be incorrect, since that elevator was only open to the hangar deck on one of its narrow sides, so two Skyhawks could only be loaded fore and aft.

Grumman and Vought proposal brochures depict a similar orientation. Two F11Fs fit with one-foot clearance with the wing tips manually folded down. The V-384 had to be angled.

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