Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair

Pirate of the Skies

She is capricious, agile, extremely fast and very loud - a ferocious bird of prey and pirate of the skies: The Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair. Many aircraft enthusiasts consider her the 20th century's definitive carrier fighter.

Minimum aerodynamic resistance, maximum speed and the most powerful engine to fit the smallest possible hull, were the prerequisites when developing the F4U-4. With the 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R- 2800 Double Wasp radial engine and 1824 hp, the Corsair had a real monster under its wing. In order to convert this overwhelming power to propulsion, an extra large propeller measuring 4 meters in diameter was needed, which in turn required an expansive undercarriage. This difference of level to the ground demanded ingenuity and the Corsair engineers resorted to a trick: The development of the characteristic inverted gull wing. The wings can be bent vertically upwards, saving space on the aircraft carrier on past missions, and proving extremely advantageous in transport operations nowadays.

The Corsair has a wingspan of 12.48 m, is 10.26 m in length and can fly at an altitude of almost 13,000 meters. The aircraft was developed for U.S. Navy as fighter-bomber in 1939, was deployed as a fighter and night fighter in the Korean War and after being withdrawn from service was sold to the French air force by the Americans. At the beginning of World War II, the killing machine with the charm of a Carl Bark's duck was considered the most feared American fighter by the Japanese air force. After all, her tearing speed enabled her to easily compete with the jets of the sons of the rising sun. Two of her nicknames say a lot about her character: On the one hand “The Whistling Death“ - endowed because of the murderous high-pitched sound it made on approach caused by airflow through the wing-root oil coolers. The carrier crew associated it with the whistling sound of the Grim Reaper. Another nickname was “The Ensign Eliminator“: At the start, the F4U developed such an enormous torque, that inexperienced pilots could not handle the aircraft without being initially thrown off course.

The prototype of the Corsair, the XF4U-, however, took off on course on her maiden flight on 29th May 1940 reaching a maximum speed of 650 km/h). The Flying Bulls' Corsair (a 1945 model) even reaches a velocity of 750 km/h. Such speeds, however, are seldom aimed at to prevent undue wear of the engine. For her age she is still extremely good at soaring and diving: The Corsair of the skies is able to withstand 4,5 G anytime and the maintenance team at the Hangar-8 treat and pamper the old bird with indulgence: Following an hour's flight one can reckon with 40 hours maintenance. As can be expected of a pirate, the Corsair has a ferocious appetite and consumes 400 liters fuel per hour, in fact when starting up the consumption is no less than threefold! The Corsair exhibited at the Hangar-7 has been immaculately overhauled and maintained; a stylish and a unique edition of the F4U-4.

She is perhaps not exactly a sports aircraft in the common sense, but perfectly designed to function as a private sports aircraft: During the nineties she was deployed at hundreds of air shows between Oslo and Rome, without having the engine of that robust predator even splutter. The Corsair - the Keith Richards among the Flying Bulls-Warbirds.

Sigi Angerer's Logbook

Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair

Many dream of winning the lottery, for me it was much harder, I dreamed of owning a Corsair! That means 6 tons of metal, 46 liter (2,804 cubic inch) engine, 2200 hp and the rarity value of a blue penny. In the early 80's I came to Breckenridge, Texas and there she was standing in front of me: A low wing airplane, in which one sits a few meters high, pretty big for a single engine aircraft.

Howard Pardue was the owner. I was always allowed to sit in the cockpit whenever I was in Texas - it was one of the most impressing experiences in my youth. Then there was also Buck Ridly, his Corsair was in bad shape and was only seldom flown. He, way over 70, I full of beans. One day he finally asked me in his deep Texan slang: “O.k., son, how much money can you raise?“ I: “If I sell everything I've got and…“ He: “O.k., we got a deal!“ Now there I was in Texas with an old fighter jet and not much money to spare. Whenever I came to Dallas, which was about twice a month, I had a spin in the Corsair. But it was my aim to bring her to Austria. The alternatives of container shipment or flying over were cut out straight away and the plan slowly hatched to transport her by car ferry. A month later my ship entered port in Bremen. There was a small airport at the other end of the harbour, limited to 3 tons, my plane weighed double. The German officials could not make up their minds as to whether I should be allowed to start - after all, the unification of the GDR had not yet occurred.

But my friend Hans Oswald, who lived close by, organised a barge for me and we shipped the Corsair to Lemwerder, a day's journey away if one gets up very early. There was enough fuel in the tank to fly from there to Hanover, my first landing in Europe. The photo of my arrival still radiates happiness. Quickly refuelled, it drizzled when I took off. The hills near Kassel were shrouded with clouds. I wondered how fast the “Ossis” (East Germans) actually were, dropped to 30 meters, applied maximum power and flew about 8 minutes east of the fence. Nothing happened. It was a perfect flight till Munich and surpassing my wildest dreams I flew along the “Martinswand” near Innsbruck, low down over the airport, pulled up high and actually landed spot on, my friend and mechanic Hubert Rödlach on the backseat. It was two days before Christmas, and no Red Bull in sight.

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