History of the Vaught F4U Corsair Plane

If youíve never seen a Corsair before, your first glance at the outsized propeller and "bent" wings might leave you with the feeling that either this warbird was assembled from parts that didnít match or it has met with some sort of disaster. But from all these outsized and mismatched parts came one of WWIIís greatest fighter planes. It could outfight, out climb and (if need be) outrun any prop driven enemy. The original Corsair plane, seen below, has been recreated in the form of a very popular pedal plane, called the Corsair Pedal Plane.  

The US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics had a long tradition of issuing proposals for aircraft which pushed the limits of available technology. This stimulated the manufacturers ability to respond with new technology to meet the challenge. When "BuAer" sent its proposal for a high performance, carrier based fighter to United Aircraft Corporation (parent company of Vought-Sikorsky) on February 1, 1938, it seemed the Navy might have pushed technology to the point of giving it a hernia. C. J. McCarthy, who was Voughtís General Manager, called in the companyís chief engineer, Rex Beisel. Rex was one of those people who lived by the old motto "The difficult we do immediately. The impossible will take a week, ten days at the most." An elite team was selected for the development of Vought Design #V-166; Frank Albright as project engineer; Paul Baker as aerodynamics engineer; James Shoemaker as propulsion engineer. Each had an assistant. These engineers submitted their work to Beisel who then integrated it all into a final design.

Early on, Shoemaker chose the Pratt-Whitney R-1830 Wasp air-cooled radial engine because of itís long history of reliability, and the V-166-A was designed around this engine. But, in 1940, the BuAerís quest for speed resulted in a switch to the experimental XR-2800-4 version of the Pratt-Whitney Double Wasp, with a two-stage supercharger for the prototype XF4U-1 Corsair. The R-2800 engine was the most powerful engine in the world in 1940, exceeding 100 hp (74.6 kW) per cylinder for each of its 18 cylinders. The change in engines resulted in the design number being changed to Vought Design #V-166-B. The V-166-A was never built.

With the awesome 2,804 cubic inch (46 liter) Double Wasp air-cooled radial engine developing 1,850 hp (1,380.6 kW), the only way to convert that kind of horsepower efficiently into thrust was with a huge Hamilton Standard Hydromatic, 3 blade prop which measured 13 feet 4 inches (4.06 meters) in diameter. And that created a problem of deck clearance for the prop. It seemed either the main landing gear had to be lengthened, or the prop had to be shortened.

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source: www.aviation-history.com