By Tommy H. Thomason

Thursday, September 12, 2019

F8U-3 vs F4H-1 Dogfights at Patuxent River?

Often when the subject of the Vought F8U-3 comes up on the internet, someone posts something like "Crusader 3 test pilots would often jump the Navy pilots flying the F4H out of Pax River and get the better of them. Then the Navy brass complained and that was the end of the mock dogfights".

That scenario doesn't seem very likely. It is true that NASA Langley in Virginia was bailed the two F8U-3 prototypes for sonic boom studies after the Vought program was canceled. One arrived on 26 May 1959 and the other a month later (the latter was primarily used for spares). Flight tests were accomplished through October 1959 (I don't know the date of the last flight) and both airplanes stricken a month later.
 Langley didn't even bother adding the NASA logo on the tail of its F8U-3s during the five months they were on flight status there.

It is also true that there were F4Hs at Pax River during that time, No. 6 from 27 July to 13 August 1959 for NPE II, initial carrier suitability evaluation, and No. 3 in October, also likely for a couple of weeks, for NPE III, autopilot and air-to-air refueling evaluation. And Pax River and NASA Langley are not all that far apart.

However, No. 6 probably didn't leave the NAS Patuxent traffic pattern much, if at all, except on the ferry flight from St. Louis and the one to return.

I don't know whether there was any overlap between No. 3's visit to Pax in October and NASA's F8U-3 flight status; it's likely that there was and possible that they did tangle at least once.
Note that this picture was probably taken at a later date since No. 3 has a boilerplate IFR probe configuration being evaluated for production.

However, NASA test pilot Donald Mallick flew some of the Langley F8U-3 flights as described in his autobiography (a pdf can be downloaded for free from this NASA website: www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/history/Publications/index.html).
I'm pretty sure that if there was such an encounter, he would have mentioned it.

In any event, given the relatively brief periods of overlap of the two types in the area and the intensive and controlled nature of the flight-test programs involved, it seems very unlikely that there was much opportunity for mock dogfighting. One of the two pilots would have had to have enough fuel after completing the test points on his flight card to go looking to bounce another fighter in his vicinity that turned out to be an F8U-3/F4H  that happened to be airborne at the same time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

U.S. Navy F-84 Thunderjet

When I first saw this picture I thought it might have been Photoshopped:

The designation, F84-CKX, also looked bogus (the dash number is in the wrong place, this was reportedly an F-84B, and the "X" should be a prefix, not a suffix):

But it turns out to be the real deal as reported by Bruce Craig (an F-84 subject-matter expert) Tom Chee, and other sources.

According to Bruce's blog, now gone from the internet as best I can tell, 80 F-84Bs were transferred to the Navy from the Air Force for use as target drones, designated F-84KX and given BuNos 142269-142348.

Tom notes that the official designation was "F84 KX" and Navy service histories only exist for the following Bureau Numbers:

142269: Assigned to NADC Johnsville from 28 October 1954 until it was retired on 9 August 1955. It was stricken in February 1956 with a reported total flight hours of 0 (if correct, it was a non-flying prototype for remote-control system installation and ground-based testing).

142270: Assigned to BAR (BuAer Representative) Cherry Point, North Carolina on 22 December 1954 and transferred to NADC Johnsville on 1 March 1955. It was retired on 9 August 1955 and stricken in February 1956 with a reported total flight hours of 2, which might be the ferry time from Cherry Point.

142271 and 142272 had virtually identical calendar milestones and the same flight time, 2 hours, as 142270.

My guess is that the Navy wanted to utilize a target drone with more performance than the F6F Hellcats being used at the time (an article in the July 1951 issue of Naval Aviation News stated that an F6F-5K was being modified by NADC to add two externally mounted turbojet engines "to increase its altitude range and speed maximum to provide gunnery targets comparable to today's faster and higher altitude fighter and bomber aircraft". The Air Force had replaced the F-84B in service by 1952 so it was available for the purpose.

The Navy apparently decided subsequently that it was beginning to have its own fleet of surplus jet fighters and it was more sensible to convert them to be targets than to add another airframe and engine to its logistics, training, and maintenance burden.

For a discussion of the color scheme and the fuselage length difference between the F-84B and the E/F, see https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2019/08/us-navy-f-84-thunderjet-target-drone.html

Scooter!

The first edition of Scooter! has been selling for silly prices on Amazon so Crécy decided to publish a second one. I've corrected typos and errors as well as added new illustrations and updated the sections on foreign military air forces and civil-registered Skyhawks. Also see HERE. For reviews of the first edition, click HERE.
All of the author and editor reviews are complete. It should be going to the printer this week and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Well, That Was Colorful


On 4 November 1981, a visiting Marine pilot flying an RF-4B made his first catapult launch in a Phantom, which required a bit of finesse with the stick. At the time, the technique was to use full aft stick when the catapult fired and then ease it forward to keep from over rotating. Obviously his timing and/or final stick position was off because the pitch attitude reached about 60 degrees as shown in the picture. Fortunately, the Phantom was light (internal fuel only) and the engines in afterburner. Since pitch control was not very effective at low speed (the reason for starting with full aft stick), he elected to lower the nose to the horizon with rudder (think hammerhead turn) and then roll out. I surprised that the guy in the backseat stayed with him but the unusual attitude recovery was successful and they continued back to their base in Japan as planned.

For more on this incident and much more on the RF-4B, see this CD on the RF-4B by Lee R. DeHaven and Richard Rentrop: https://www.amazon.com/RF-4B-Phantom-USMC-Tactical-Reconnaissance/dp/0980109205