Grumman F8F "Bearcat"
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Rick Funk, e-mail, 22.02.2024 02:34

You might have known my father who was in VF661 and involved in the accident stated in the previous email.

Rick Funk, e-mail, 22.02.2024 02:32

You might have known my father who was in VF661 and involved in the accident stated in the previous email.

Rick Funk, e-mail, 29.12.2022 04:14

You might have known my father, see the above response to your note .

Ron, e-mail, 08.10.2015 10:56

Not only is the F8F shorter than the F6F, it is also shorter than the F4F!
Next to a Sea Fury, the Bearcat looks like it's in a carnival mirror!
I dig that climb rate though!
The 20mm cannon version needed the RAF Hispano MkV in place of the M3 Hispano of the US. The postwar M3 still didn't get it right!

Vic Mottarella, 01.03.2015 19:55

I had twenty seven years of total Naval service. We got our first Bearcats 1946 while I was a young Ensign in VF-32. I started in Hellcats but this thing was something that almost overwhelmed me by it's performance in rate of climb. I was lucky enough to pick up a brand new one at Beth Page. I got in trouble at Otis AfB when I rolled one on take off in 1948. The CO of the base saw it and called the Admiral at Quonset Point. I've also flown the Corsair but at 89 the Bearcat remains my all time favorite airplane and includes the several jets that I flew later.

JLB Cdr. USNR-Ret, e-mail, 03.02.2015 04:50

The Bearcat was probably the best propeller driven fighter plane ever built. That
big powerful engine made this plane so easy to fly that numerous times while
practicing instrument flying, when its pilot reached the “beam” he would do a loop
while still on instruments, and never needing to change the power settings.

Bob Kusterer, e-mail, 20.05.2014 21:06

A friend of mine had one. I almost had him talked into letting me fly it but he crashed it before I had the chance. The closest thing I got to fly was a P-51D; that was terrific but the Bearcat has almost twice the power; I sure would like the opportunity to fly one.

Ron, e-mail, 09.01.2014 02:09

I don't know, but the designers of the F8F may have gone too far in trimming its weight. And why shrink the cockpit to fit only short pilots? Maybe too much Zero envy from the early war days. I mean snap-off wingtips to avoid beefing up the wings for 6gs+ stresses to save weight? That ended badly.
A little more strength and the added pounds might help tame the overpowered engine from getting out of hand and it would still have stellar powerloading.
Grumman needed this plane to intercept kamikazies only to be aced out by the F4U-4 due to missing the war. And then when it was ready it was again passed over for the Corsair to do ground support in Korea. Jets would take over the air supremacy role. But not to worry, air shows you know.

As it turned out maybe the F8F was the wrong choice when something between the Hellcat and Bearcat would have been more timely. It was already in hand but the new F8F carried the day and missed its war. Who could foresee that the Bear would't be nearly as carrier friendly as the Hellcat?

Ron, e-mail, 03.06.2013 10:23

Absent any official military reports, I've heard tell that the F8F was the only U.S. fighter able to match the maneuverability of the Type 5 Kawasaki Ki 100!
I also know that the Type 5 would at times carry less than a full load of fuel in intercept mode. Thus making it much lighter on its feet.
And don't count out the J2M Raiden.
Aaron, I'm with you on the F4U-4 since it saw action in WW 2 unlike the F8F.

Jim Aylward, e-mail, 18.02.2013 20:06

On April 9, 1953, I flew an F8F-1, bureau #95321 as a NAVCAD. Other than my first solo in an SNJ,it was the greatest aviation experience of my life. The F8F was not doing Carrier Operations at this time so we had to transition to the F6F and get our Carrier landings and then our designation as Naval Aviator.

Brounto, 16.12.2012 06:38

Durring 1970 an F8F "Raced" a plymoth superbird witch broke the land speed record of 202 miles per hour i was there as the Superbird speed gun watcher

joe nason, e-mail, 09.12.2012 06:12

my dad(GRHS)flew Helldivers from the Wasp and Skyraiders from the Boxer in Korea. He flew the Bearcat at NAS Glenview in May 51.Anyone ever heard of using 4x4's on the tarmac to get a little extra bounce for the f8f's flight demonstration to altitude?

Larry Warren, e-mail, 21.08.2012 23:08

correction to prior: When I couldn't get the hook down, I was sent from Phil Sea to the USS Midway - also in the Med - because she had a longer deck and higher flank speed.

Larry Warren, e-mail, 21.08.2012 23:01

Wally Schirra and I went thru flight training together, he as an officer, me as aviation midshipman. We were both assigned to VF-71 in Quonset Point, RI in August 1948 (until Jan 1951). I was his wingman - in late '49 we went thru jet training together (TO-1, F-80). In 1949 aboard USS Philippine Sea, Wally made the 15000th landing, but got no cake because it resulted in a damaged aircraft. I wrote the accident report.
The Bearcat was hot and fun, but lots of things went wrong. Lost two squadron mates who went into the sea due to low-altitude engine failure; and I made both a no-hook and no-flap landing on the Phil Sea cruise due to mechanical failure. As for climbing to 10,000 feet with no loss of speed! Even Grandpa Pettibone would laugh at that one!

Rick Funk, e-mail, 11.06.2012 22:52

Follow up to Ray Gibsons comment. Your comments are identicle to a story my father told me. He was an F8F pilot in the reserve out of Anacostia and also did CQ landings on the Saipan. He said he had been at the end of the runway with some buddies where carrier approaches were being practiced. He jumped on the back of a jeep to ride back and then noticed an F8F losing control, leaving the runway and headed right for them on the taxiway. Dad yelled at his buddies but they didn't hear and he thought they would be hit. He jumped off the jeep and then the F8F
was able to swirve to avoid the jeep but then ran into an SNJ and knocked the engine off the SNJ and spun it around. This SNJ had the FAA investigators on board. Seems like the same occurrence to me. It was Dad's response to answering a question from his son, me, as to any life threatening experiences as a pilot. This was one and it was a ground experience.

Ray Gibson, e-mail, 21.06.2011 07:46

In the early 1950s I was in a reserve squadron (VF-661)out of Anacostia NAS on a two week cruise to Jacksonville NAS and then out of Norfolk, VA on the USS Saipan (CVL48).While in Jacksonville I was a plane captain of an F8F. We had 16 of them, 8 on each side of the apron facing each other.
I was running through the check list when the guy on the fire bottle started giving me the cut sign and I saw pieces
of things flying through the air. After I got the canopy open and got out I saw that one of the planes had jumped it's chocks and was chewing up the wing of the plane in front of it and that plane was doing the same to it.
The flying metal put two other F8Fs out of service.To top it off another of our F8Fs practising touch and goes spun off the runway and chewed up the wing of the SNJ that the investgators from Norfolk were in waiting to turn onto the runway.We were not activated to go to Korea, but our sister Squadron at Anacostia (VMF-321) was. They had F4Us. Cheers.

Gene Gifford LT.USNR, e-mail, 12.06.2011 20:24

The Bearcat was the nearest thing to riding a Harley D.
It could climb straight ut to 10,00 ft.with out slowing down; and I would wonder at seeing the prop bending forword.

Klaatu, e-mail, 07.05.2011 00:40

My late Dad flew everything from Buffaloes to Bearcats. He was not a pilot, but an aviator. He used to say pilots fly for the Air Force or live in the bottom of water heaters."

This business of "pilot" vs. "aviator" arose simply because, in the Navy, there is already somebody else who is known as a "pilot". In the Navy a "pilot" is what they call the local expert who brings a ship into and out of port. "Pilots" do not go to sea on ships, they embark or disembark at the harbor entrance, known as the "pilot station", to and from a "pilot boat". Although the "pilot" is officially considered an advisor to the captain, and does not legally assume command from the captain, he actually issues the the orders bringing the ship in and out of port.

Tony Moors, e-mail, 05.05.2011 22:42

Copied from Grumman Plane News. From BillWilke.
"When I started with Grumman in Jan '49 there were still a few F8F Bearcats at Bethpage, including the last one. This last one was specially built for the Gulf Oil Co., with all the military components (armor plate, self-sealing gas tanks, gun mounts, ammunition boxes, arresting hook, wing folding structure, survival gear, etc) eliminated.
Although the F6F Hellcat had managed a kill ratio of 22 to 1 over the Zero, the Japanese were stripping their Zeros down even more and trying to build what was almost a suicide fighter. The F8F was designed to cope with this problem. The F8F never made it into combat in WW2, although some were on Jeep carriers on their way to the war zone when the war ended. The Frence used them in the Korean war.
Before the war, the Gulf Oil Co. had purchased several Grumman Biplane fighters, which were modified for aerobatics. For publicity purposes, these planes were flown by a retired military pilot, Major AL Williams. They were stationed at Roosevelt Field on Long Island, NY and were called Gulfhawks. These airplanes were painted bright orange, with the Gulf Oil Co. logo on the wings. Al Williams would occasionally give a little show at Roosevelt Field (airport), including flying down the runway upside down, about 10' above the ground.
Unfortunately the Navy would not allow Grumman to deliver the last Gulfhawk. It was repainted in Navy colors and used by Grumman for demonstration purposes. I have seen Corky Meyers, a Grumman test pilot, fly it. It was awesome, as it could take off in less than 100' and then climb straight up until it was out of sight. Corky would stand at the end of the runway and rev the engine a little, and lift the tail off the ground-and hold the plane perfectly horizontal without moving forward, with ease!
Reports were that the F8F was the fastest propeller driven plane in the world that would take off and land in a conventional manner. I believe that it still holds the world record for climbing to 10,000' from a standing start without assistance. It could leave a P51 or Corsair in the dust regardless of how they were modified. The Navy never released it for racing or commercial purposes!!! So goes the GLORY of the world.

Dean Woolery, e-mail, 14.03.2011 21:03

LCDR Craig, we must have been at Kingsville at the same time. I also went from SNJ's to the F8F with about 350 hours, and the transition was MORE than interesting. I flew the Corsair and the F6 also, but nothing held a candle to the Bearcat. After the first few hours of being scared silly by the performance, it was GREAT FUN to buzz those unconcerned King Ranch cattle at 20' and 400 knots.

Rob, e-mail, 27.11.2010 20:39

My late Dad flew everything from Buffaloes to Bearcats. He was not a pilot, but an aviator. He used to say pilots fly for the Air Force or live in the bottom of water heaters. He described the Hellcat as "rock solid", the Corsair as "a twitchy SOB", and the Bearcat (recounting vertical climbs to altitude)as the "funnest airplane he ever flew second only to a J-3 Cub."

Donn Foreman, e-mail, 02.11.2010 08:07

From 1954 to 1956 I logged about 200 hours in the F8F Bearcat in Utility Squadron 3 at our base at NAAS Ream Field at the south end of San Diego Bay. The body was dark blue, but because the pilot was flying two aircraft, his own and a drone in front of him, the wings were painted a bright yellow with a red stripe at the mid section. We used the Bearcat as a control aircraft for F6F Hellcat drones which were painted red because they could be flown without a pilot, taken to sea and used as target aircraft. The Bearcat was an exciting plane to fly. It responsed so beautifully to anything we asked of it. With its vertical stabilizer mounted on the fuselage turned 2 deg. to the left, torque adjustments were gone. Takeoff, climb, cruise, and landing were all done pretty much with neutral rudder. After the full right rudders we needed for takeoff with the F6F, we realized that Grumman had, indeed, with that one modification, provided its pilots with "an elegant solution" for elimination of takeoff engine torque. The cockpit was quite a cramped environment. For anyone over 5' 10" his helmet rubbed on the top of the bubble canopy and for longer legs, with a shorter rudder extension, the knees were bent up a little, which put a lot of the pilot's weight on his rear end, that got a little sore on a 3 hour flight. No one in our squadron had to bail out of an F8F during my deployment, so I was never sure about that rumor: that because the horizontal stabilizer was so close behind the cockpit if a chap had to leave and roll over the side, it was said that he would wind up wrapped around the stabilizer.
God, it was a lovely litte sweetie! I still get envious comments from others when I tell them I got to fly it.

Don Safer, e-mail, 23.10.2010 23:15

Pardon me.
Of coarse I meant the F8F Bearcat.

Don Safer, e-mail, 17.10.2010 19:51

In 1959 at age 15 I was at the Hayward California airport when a Grumman company owned F9F made an unscheduled landing due to an oil leak. I took some photos that I am willing to share. A low res version of one is at my donsafer dot com site.

Aaron, e-mail, 15.10.2010 00:17

The bearcat was born from specifications requiring an interceptor as small as possible to be built around the P&W R-2800 engine.
The inital Grumman designation was G-58. This designation originated from Design 58 which was a report compiled by Grumman test pilot Bob Hall given to Grumman President Leroy Grumman after his experiences in a captured FW-190.
I have never seen this report, so I do not know how much the F8F was influenced by the FW-190. But keep in mind that several (possibly most) fighter aircraft are in some way influence by another aircraft. The F6F being designed to battle the Zero is a perfect example.

MAC, e-mail, 07.10.2010 04:36


Aaron, e-mail, 01.10.2010 08:59

WOW, flew a Bearcat? Awsome! I never get to have that kind of fun...I could just cry. Good on you man. It must have been fantastic. The Hellcat a Buick, yea, sound right. A Bearcat a Maserati, OK, I could believe that. The Corsair a Cadillac? Well...I was thinking more like a Viper. Jim, did you ever get to fly a Corsair? If so, what was it like? I know it was no Bearcat, but it still must have taken your breath away in some form.

Aaron, e-mail, 01.10.2010 08:48

I have seen the generally published performance figures for the F8F-1, and for the most part they are correct. So all I have to add is what the Bearcat was capable of achieving in interceptor mode as apposed to fighter-bomber mode. I do not have the original tests report, just bits and pieces of the specification. The gross, fighter, full internal fuel: 9334lbs. Engine: R-2800-34W with water injection could produce 2400hp./2800rpm. at 1,000ft. military power: 2100hp/2800rpm/S.L.-3400ft. and 2700hp(WEP) / 2800rpm/9,500ft-16,600ft. Speed (no pylons or shackles): 394mph/S.L. 434mph/19,800ft. Initial rate of climb as a fighter: 4600fpm/S.L. Maximum range: 1830mls.
A test of an unmodified aircraft climbed to 10,000ft. in 94 seconds (6383fpm avg.). I have seen the initial climb rate in interceptor mode listed at 6500fpm., but no specifics listed of weight and conditions of the test. In other tests it was found that the F8F-1 could outturn the A6M5 at speeds above 200mph and match it down to 160mph. I have also read that the F8F would have been able to follow any Zero in a loop and shoot it out of the sky at the top of the loop. From what I have read to date, the F7F was the only WW2 fighter able to out accelerate the F8F in level flight. The F8F-1 was an extremely dynamic and responsive aircraft. I would love to see any military reports comparing it to the Ki.84, Ki.100 or N1K2-J. As a pure interceptor (if it had become fully operational) of WW2 it would have my vote. And only second to the F4U-4 as the best all around fighter of WW2. Its the ruggedness, fire power and load carrying thing.

David Sherman, e-mail, 16.09.2010 03:49

Favorite piston airplane of two pretty good pilots
Wally Schirra and Neal Armstrong.

Son Of LTJG Curt w Copeland US, e-mail, 29.05.2010 05:00

My father was a test pilot for the F-8 Bearcat and on the Lexington ,I still have his G-suit and desktop model from Grumman,Great airplane I;m told along with WW2 b/w photos .priceless.He's now gone .God Bless all of you guys.

Ron, e-mail, 20.05.2010 01:16

4,570 fpm was the initial climb rate for the Bearcat with essentially the same engine as the Hellcat. Too bad it missed the party. Operational in May 1945, it didn't see combat.
It was the result of testing a captured Fw 190 early on.
Dimensions were reduced and weight saved. It could do a 7.5 g turn. It would have been interesting in a dogfight with a George 21 or Ki 100 Tony!

andrew Douglass, e-mail, 04.03.2010 16:11

i just wish i could go back in time and convince grumman to have built the bearcat instead of the what a difference that would have made!

Cliff Craig, LCDR USNR Ret, e-mail, 05.01.2010 00:27

As a NavCad in '52, hoping to be assigned to the F8F for Advanced training,I drove all night from Pensacola to Corpus. It was certainly worth it, but I must admit that the transition from the SNJ to the Bearcat was quite impressive! It is still my all-time favorite airplane.

Jim Warner CDR USNR Ret., e-mail, 01.07.2008 20:53

During the early 50's I had 500 flying hours in this magnificent airplane. When flying it you felt like you were an integral part of the airplane. The Hellcat was like a Buick, the Corsair was like a Cadillac and the Bearcat was like a Maserati.

denigan, e-mail, 05.06.2008 20:53

Don't reduce power below 17 inches or the engine dies! Straddling the accessory unit and with the bubble canopy, wear the lightest clothing possible - there's no AC!

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