YouTube – F7U Cutlass
2 x 4,600 lbs. ea.
4 x 20 mm
44 ft. 3 in.
38 ft. 8 in.
The F7U Cutlass, produced by Vought, was an innovative aircraft for its time, having its vertical stabilizers and rudders mounted on the main wing while doing away with traditional elevators. The aircraft never fulfilled its potential, primarily due to its engines.
The design made for an extremely maneuverable, if somewhat unstable, aircraft that could out turn and out roll other fighter aircraft of the time.
In the hands of experienced pilots, the instability could be used to advantage to out maneuver an enemy. However, the aircraft could easily be over controlled into a stall, resulting in a flat spin from which recovery was difficult.
Controls on the F7U Cutlass were hydraulically operated. Unfortunately, they proved susceptible to premature failures and were a high maintenance item.
Adding to the aircraft’s unusual looks was a long nose wheel strut which facilitated steep angle take offs. In early models, the long strut proved weak and could collapse on the type of hard landings common to aircraft carriers. Later production aircraft had a stronger strut.
A plus of the F7U Cutlass design was the forward location of the aircraft’s cockpit that gave excellent visibility while the aircraft was in flight. However, the steep, extreme nose-up landing angle of early designs made carrier landings difficult. Keeping the LSO in sight while on final approach meant landing off of centerline while flying the aircraft in a sideways skid. It was virtually impossible to see the flight deck just before landing. This was somewhat remedied, but never cured, in later designs.
We are told that the cockpit design itself was comfortable and accommodate pilots of virtually all sizes.
For about 60 days during the 1953 season, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flew two F7U Cutlass aircraft in addition to their regular performing aircraft. The aircraft only lasted a short time and did not fly in the air show formations due unreliable engines and a lack of power.
The early jet engine design used by the F7U Cutlass was prone to failures, especially when encountering heavy moisture. Firing the Cutlasses cannons was also known to cause the engines to quit. This was remedied in later aircraft models by having the cannons on each side of the aircraft fire at different intervals.
The F7U Cutlass was the first U.S. Navy aircraft to fly at supersonic speeds, and the first one to use afterburners. It was the first aircraft capable of being catapulted from an aircraft carrier while carrying 5,000 lbs. of external weapons, and the first aircraft capable of dropping bombs while flying at supersonic speeds.
While flying from 1948 through 1959, some 80 F7U Cutlass aircraft, out of a total of 320 of all types produced, were lost or rendered totally inoperative due to problems caused primarily by insufficient power and engine failures.
RC F7U Cutlass