By Tommy H. Thomason

Friday, August 23, 2013

The First Flight of Vought's XF7U-1 Cutlass

One of the discrepancies that I couldn't resolve before my F7U-1 monograph went to press was the frequently reported first flight date of 29 September 1948 versus a contemporaneous mention of a short flight on 27 September. In my F7U-1 monograph, I wrote "For some reason, (the XF7U-1's first flight on 27 September) only lasted six minutes." In the September 2013 issue of the Smithsonian Air&Space magazine, a letter by a Navy civilian flight test engineer Martin A. Snyder described the flight: "As soon as it lifted off the ground, it started to violently pitch nose up and down. We all were sure that the airplane couldn't fly. However, Baker managed to maintain a semblance of control, came around, and successfully landed. The airplane was towed to the hangar for inspection. We later found out that the longitudinal instability had nothing to do with the aerodynamics. The pitch trim control was a conventional thumb-operated slide switch on top of the control stick, and the switch had been wired backward: When the pilot wanted nose-up trim he got nose-down and vice versa."

I just talked to Martin on the phone and he sounds really sharp, not even allowing for his being 87 years old. I'm sending him a copy of my monograph in hopes that he can provide more information on the early flight test of the Cutlass.