Aircraft of the Month: F4U Corsair
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Aircraft of the Month: F4U Corsair

November 17, 2019

Hi my name is Eric Boehm, curator of aviation
at the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum, and today we are visiting our friends at the New England Air Museum in
Windsor Locks, Connecticut to take a look at one of the iconic aircraft of World War II The Vaught F4U Corsair. The Corsair was a carrier based fighter and ground support aircraft
for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The Corsair combined the most powerful engine of the day with some other truly unique design features. The first prototype was flown on May 29, 1940. Corsair flew from the Intrepid during World War Two as both
a fighter and a fighter bomber. Possibly the most distinctive feature of the Corsair
was its inverted gull-wing design. The wing was mounted low on the fuselage and this contributed to the performance of the design in different ways. First of all, essential for storage aboard the ship, the wings had to fold. Also, the struts had to offer ground clearance for the large propeller that is mounted on that
two thousand horsepower radial engine up front. Most importantly the struts also needed to be strong to
withstand the sudden impact of arrested carrier landings. To accommodate a folding wing, the main landing gear ideally
had to retract to the rear with the wheels rotating approximately
90 degrees and flat relative to the wing. The solution to all these problems was the inverted gull-wing. This angled down, or anhedral, wing center section permitted the wing and fuselage to meet at the optimum angle
for minimizing airframe drag. Placing the gear struts here at the lower apex of the wing geometry permitted a shorter length allowing the struts to fit up inside the wing when retracted. These stout short struts were well suited for the hard carrier deck landings while still providing clearance for that massive 13 foot diameter prop. Corsairs had this very long nose to facilitate a large self-sealing fuel tank in front of the cockpit. This initially made carrier operations difficult because it inhibits the pilot’s view over the nose when landing. Thanks to the British Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm was developed
an improved landing technique and the Corsair proved to be an excellent carrier borne weapon. On 16 April 1945 Corsair pilots of V.F.10, flying from the Intrepid repelled a large group of Japanese kamikaze airplanes that were about to attack the fleet. Ensign Alfred Lurch got seven of them. Lieutenant Phil Kirkwood bagged six
and two other pilots from the unit claimed four each. By the end of the day the squadron confirmed
29 of the attackers shot down. Corsairs were very capable and saw service not only
in the Pacific during World War 2 but also during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. Corsairs continued to serve in the reserves as well as in foreign air forces; some into the 1970s. The last time the Corsair was used in actual combat was in 1969 during the so-called “Football War” between Honduras and El Salvador. It’s interesting to note that both nations flew variants of the Corsair. We would like to thank the staff at the New England Air Museum
for sharing their incredible collection with us, especially this magnificent example
of the F4U Corsair. For more information about the New England air museum visit

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  1. Thanks for an excellent presentation on my all-time favorite aircraft. It would be interesting to hear/read more about the British system that made them easier to land on carriers. Wish we had one!

  2. This is my first museum review.  I would love to get your thoughts on how I could improve.

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