Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Feline Tub, A Tall Tale That Might Be True, Photo Phantoms, and A Turkey or Two,

That Tango Cougar

Way back in the 1950s, back when the Navy was getting into jets in a Big Way, it became evident that a swept-wing jet trainer might be useful for getting aspiring young aviators up to speed (no pun intended, mostly) on the then-new types entering service. Grumman had already begun delivering F9F-6 fighters to the Fleet and their handling characteristics, particularly around the boat, were a far cry from the relatively benign straight-winged types most naval aviators were accustomed to. That in turn led to the requirement for a trainer variant of the Cougar, which resulted in the modification of the F9F-8 fighter into the F9F-8T two-seater. Let's start the day with a few photos of that then-revolutionary trainer.

Where it all began.  BuNo 141667 was the prototype for the F9F-8T and proved the concept was viable. She's shown here on an early test flight, all shiny in natural metal. The airplane looked a little goofy with that big humped-up canopy, but it was a shape that would indure in TraCom for years to come. Grumman History Center Neg Unknown

It didn't take long for 141667 to get a coat of sorely-needed paint. The grey and white Navy tactical scheme of the 50s through early 80s called for all control surfaces to be painted white, as shown to advantage here. Part of the Cougar's roll control was provided by spoilers, and the horizontal stab was of the all-flying variety, which caused it to be painted entirely white both above and below. Of particular interest is the blast shield for the aft seat, visible beneath the canopy.  Grumman History Office 56552

A different, and somewhat colder, day in the test regime. 667 is shown here on approach to the Grumman facility at Bethpage with everything hanging and the canopy racked open, providing us with an excellent shot of that blast shield. That's snow down there; bet that was one cold final!  Grumman History Office 56333

Time for some new clothes! In this shot 667 has acquired some orange trim and a candy stripe on her test boom. The F9F-8T retained a pair of 20mm cannon and the ability to carry ordnance beneath the wings, as illustrated here by a quartet of AIM-9B Sidewinders. Those cannon and hardpoints allowed the Cougar to go to war in the 1960s, serving as a Fast FAC for the Marines. Grumman History Office 57534

Here's that "new" scheme again, this time on 142438. Most of the airframe is now white, with black anti-skid walkways, red-orange trim, and Corrogard leading edges; that Corrogard treatment is nicely defined here.  142438 was the second production F9F-8T  Grumman History Office Neg Unknown

141667 was used for weapons trials, among other evalulations, and she's shown here dumping fuel on one of those flights. The test boom has been replaced by the Cougar's standard IFR probe and she looks like a production aircraft. Grumman History Office 57545

This is yet another shot of 667, but taken when she was still configured with the test boom. The missile rails are shown to advantage and we get a good look at the gun ports and speed brakes too. The F9F Cougars weren't the best fighters out there (none of the early Navy jets were, with the possible exception of the FJ series) but they trained thousands of naval aviators in their day. Not too shabby...  Grumman History Center 57536  

Say goodbye to the folks, 667! This literal parting shot gives us an excellent view of the paint demarcation and those speed boards. Fly Navy!  Grumman History Office 57542

The Flapping Takeoff

If you meet enough military aviators you'll hear your share of there-I-was stories, some of which probably contain some element of truth. One of my friends in the small Texas town I call home is a former Naval Aviator, an IP with TraCom for the better part of his mid-60s flying career. He swears this is true.

It seems that our Intrepid Young Instructor was taking a student on his first cross country and was returning to NAS Corpus Christi via the Southern route and, is as well-known, the F9F-8T didn't have much in the way of legs, causing several refueling stops to be added to the flight plan. One of those stops was Davis Monthan AFB, a facility with sufficient runway length to accomodate even the most ground-bound of Republic's I'm-Not-Leaving-This-Runway fighters. That runway length, coupled to the natural proclivity of all Naval aviators to stick it to the Air Force whenever such an opportunity presented itself, led to a practical joke of legendary proportions.

Our aforementioned Intrepid Young Instructor and his student and recovered at DM with no problems and topped off the tanks, preparing for the next leg of the flight back to Texas, when an idea was born. Our IYI suspected that the tower at Davis Monthan didn't deal with all that many Navy airplanes; it was entirely possible back in those days for a Navy pilot to talk to an Air Force tower and use terminology that was foreign to said Tower. Our IP saw Opportunity looming, and there's no doubt in my mind that there was a big old pie-eating grin under the oxygen mask as the Cougar lined up on the active that day:

"Tower, this is Navy Two-Niner requesting takeoff from runway fill-in-the-blank".

"Roger, Navy Two-Niner. You're cleared for takeoff."

"Ah, roger, Tower. Permission to do a flapping takeoff, over?"

There can be no doubt the poor airman in the tower had not the slightest idea what a flapping takeoff might be, but no blue-suiter wants to come across as uninormed, particularly where the Navy might be involved, so permission was given:

"Roger, Navy Two-Niner. Proceed with flapping takeoff."

The grin in the front seat of the Cougar's cockpit got bigger as the throttle was advanced to allow a moderate taxi speed (remember that runway length; it's important to the story!) and a mischievious hand reached for the wing-fold control. The wings were cycled three, four, then five times, then locked down as the throttle was pushed forward for launch. We can only imagine what it must have looked like from the tower; it was, by Jingo, a flapping takeoff!

We can only hope it was true...

Some Photo Rhinos

The mighty F-4 Phantom served the Air Forces of the world for years, and in pretty much every role one could possibly imagine. The fighter that was purpose-designed for the defense of the Fleet proved to be much more capable than that, and its speed made it a natural for the photo recon role. Here are a couple of examples of the F-4 in that guise.

A whole phlock of photo Phantoms! (I'm sorry; it was in me and it had to come out!) This shot was taken at Kadena AB, Okinawa, during the late 1970s and shows a lineup of 18th TFW RF-4Cs in the squadron area. That fence doesn't add a whole lot of ambiance to the picture, but it's what we've got!  John Kerr Collection
The 67th TRW was stationed at now-defunct Bergstrom AFB for a number of years. RF-4C 66-474 was being prepped for public display at the BAFB airshow on 7 August 1988 when this picture was taken; 474 was ostensibly the wing commander's aircraft and is so marked beneath the tail codes. The paintwork is typical 1980s USAF Shades of Gray, while all three 67th TRW squadron colors are displayed on the fin tip. She was a pretty airplane.  Friddell

In 1988 the 16th TRS/363rd TRW sent a section of their RF-4Cs to participate in RAM 88. No serial number was evident on the exterior of the aircraft; the legend "16th TRS AMU" sits on the vertical stab in the place it should be, while her fuselage data block had been painted over. She was another grey-on-grey bird, with a really tasty cheat line on the nose. Beauty!  Friddell

Remember the Turkey?

There was a time, and it wasn't all that long ago, when the Grumman F-14 was the best fighter in the world. Time, technology, and an ever-increasing maintenance burden on an aging fleet of aircraft eventually did the Tomcat in, but the airplane was a Class Act from start to finish. We don't do much with the F-14 around here, but these photos make me wonder why that is. Maybe we'll have to do something about it. Meanwhile:

The 70s Navy was a colorful Navy. Here's a deck shot from the Saratoga, date unknown, showing her tactical types to advantage. That's a VF-11 Red Rippers F-14A closest to the camera; looks like we're getting ready for a launch cycle.  Rudy Bejar

A better view of the flight deck, this time showing an example from each of Sara's F-14 squadrons, VF-2 and VF-31. The pre-TPS "Easter Egg" markings are well-depicted here. I don't think the ship is rolling that badly given the sea state, but you never know...  Rudy Bejar 
Coming aboard! A Fighting Thirty-One  F-14 recovers aboard the Saratoga in this dramatic photo. The weapons sleds are carrying a pair of AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, and the fin of an AIM-7 Sparrow is visible on the far side of the aircraft. That, plus the gas bags, implies that this aircraft is returning from a CAP sortie. Rudy Bejar


A few calm moments before things start to get Really Busy. 102 was assigned to VF-21 when this photo was taken aboard the Connie in 1984 and provides the modeler with a great idea for a diorama. Gotta love the cheat line on that anti-glare panel!  Rick Morgan
Taxiing to the cat and ready to rumble. 210 is another VF-21 Tomcat and is caught moving away from the pack in this July 1985 shot. She's configured for CAP and pretty much loaded for bear as she leads out a second F-14, this time from VF-154. The boat is CV-64 Constellation.  Rick Morgan  

And here's a shot of one of Fighting One-Fifty-Four's F-14s, also on the Connie in July of '85. Note the VFA-25 F-18A taxiing forward. Although this photo shows an apparently calm deck, it's bustling with activity; note that every Deck Division hand near 102 has his eyes on the aircraft. There's a reason for that...  Rick Morgan

By the 1980s the Tomcat was a regular part of the Reserve component. This F-14A TARPS (159591) was photographed at Last Chance during RAM 88. She's from VF-302 and is about to spend her day whizzing low above the South Texas countryside.  Friddell

Majesty. An unknown Navy photographer captured this formation from VF-142 during the mid-80s. Other than that I know nothing about the photograph, but it's really pretty and sometimes that's enough.  Friddell Collection

The Relief Tube

When last we met a reader had asked a question regarding roll control on the S2F. Here are some comments regarding that topic from Tommy Thomason:

The S2F roll control consisted of 1) circular arc spoilers in the outboard wing panel located ahead of the flap and 2) small "feel" ailerons out at the wing tips. The spoilers extended upward only, with a maximum extension equal to 8.6% of the wing chord. I haven't found any pictures yet that depict them up but I vaguely remember seeing a bit of extension with the wings folded. I think the system is similar to the one on the P-61.

Tommy kept looking, and sent us a couple of photographs showing those spoilers in the deployed condition:

Tommy stresses that this photo is most likely on the prototype, but it gives us a pretty good idea of how the spoilers looked. Thomason Collection

A second view of the prototype installation.  Thomason Collection
This just might be the Money Shot; it depicts an extended spoiler on the port wing of an early S2F-1. Thomason Collection

Here's how they looked when the wings were folded. This is a production S-2E on the boat.  Thomason Collection

A detail shot of the extended spoiler on that S-2E. A final comment from Tommy:  A note on the picture with the wings vertical and both spoilers extended. As a result of the kinematics of the mechanical control system, both ailerons are deflected "up" at that point, which means that the spoilers on both wings extend, since they come out only when "their" aileron is up (wing to go down). Normally, only one side is extended since only one aileron is up at any time in flight. Pictures of that are pretty rare.
Thomason collection

And regarding the new Kinetic kit:  I made offers to help to two different contact points at the company. Got no response. As far as I can tell from pictures of the sprues, there are a few S2F-1 details on the S-2E parts. Nothing major but typical of the difficulty of properly segregating the different configurations of an aircraft that was upgraded over time. Definitely something to remember if you build that kit! Thanks, Tommy!

Contributor/reader Doug Siegfried, who has more than a few hours in the "Stoof", added these comments:

Hi Phil:  Nice coverage of my favorite airplane the S-2. A correction on the air to air shot that I took. We were flying off USS Kitty Hawk CV-63. The Princeton at the time was razor blades. Also, both pilots in the burning S-2 survived the ditching. It was fortunate that both pilots were instructors - one was an instructor under training. Helps to have two pros handle an emergency such as this one.

And a pilot's perspective on flying the S2F:  In the S2F, C-1 and E-1 you had to use a little muscle to make turns. Once you got used to the controls it was no problem. The S2F-3 (D,E and G) had very easy control and you had to be careful to not over control. You never, never thought about spinning the S-2 or all its variants. Grumman did it once and it did some very strange things so there were no spin recovery methods in the NATOPS. You just did not get into unusual attitudes in the S-2. You could do great angle of bank turns at altitude or down low to the water with no problem. We did have one guy in my first squadron that tried a barrel roll in the S2 and it lost several thousand feet before he got it back to normal flight. He had to wring out his flight suit after that and did not recommend anyone every try it. The most serious emergency in the S-2 was fire in flight - leave it or ditch now. It was great plane to fly and do what it was designed for which was ASW work. Looking forward to the new S-2 model. Cheers, Doug

This issue of Replica in Scale is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Frank Garcia, who loved Naval aviation.

And that's what I know for now. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.
phil

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