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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

XF8U-1 Crusader at 60 Part V

March 25, 1955

     Finally, the first flight day had arrived, Friday morning March 25, 1955, six days ahead of contract schedule and only 22 months from the contract between the US Navy and Chance Vought Aircraft being signed. John W. Konrad, chief test pilot for Chance Vought Aircraft, climbed into XF8U-1 #1 for the first flight. Under the watchful eye of Crew Chief Rollie Pruett, the mighty Pratt and Whitney J57 engine started and system checks carried out. Konrad taxied the XF8U-1 on the Muroc dry lake bed to the take off point.

     Once the XF8U-1s system checks were passed Konrad advanced the throttle on the Pratt and Whitney J57-P-11 engine into afterburner, released the brakes, and the first flight began. The XF8U-1 passed the attentive Chance Vought Crew on its take off roll. The aircraft was visible to the ground observers several times during the first flight.

Above: Like expectant parents, the Chance Vought engineers and a US Navy Representative watch the first flight of the XF8U-1 along with film crews that were there to capture the event. The engineers are:  (l to r) G.K. Johnson, Russ Clark, Joe Silverman, Paul Thayer, and H.B. Sallada. (CVPR-380 VAHF)

Below: March 25, 1955 John Konrad moves the throttle forward on the XF8U-1 as evidenced by the black smoke pouring from the tailpipe of the Pratt and Whitney J57 engine prior to having afterburner selected. This is the moment the past 22 months worth of work all culminate in, first flight! (CVPR-417 VAHF)

      Russ Clark, assistant project engineer, stated, "The flight objective was to achieve in order of 1.1 Mach number which was easily accomplished, in fact the acceleration of the aircraft through the transonic was smooth, pleasant, and rapid." The XF8U-1 aircraft was airborne for 52 minutes and exceeded 1,000 mph on the first flight. Naval Aviation now had a 1,000 mph carrier based day fighter second to none in performance. The only reported problem during the first  flight of the #1 XF8U-1 concerned the yaw and roll stabilization system that would be addressed after further flight testing determined the extent of the problem.

Above: XF8U-1 in-flight with the wing up, flaps and droops extended. (CVPR-435 VAHF)

Above: XF8U-1 in-flight. (CVPR-439 VAHF)

John Konrad bringing the XF8U-1 in for landing after a successful first flight. (CVPR-438 VAHF)

     After landing and taxing back to the temporary Chance Vought Hangar, Konrad was seen grinning in the cockpit and gave a confident wink. The aircraft was swarmed by well wishers offering congratulations. Konrad replied, "Thanks a lot for a good airplane." He continued, "I'm not the one to be congratulated, I just happened to be in the seat." Commander Joe Rees, the Bureau of Aeronautics XF8U-1 Project Officer, was standing nearby. Konrad said to Rees, "Well, Joe, there's your new airplane." To which Commander Rees replied, "She sure looks good."

Above: Test Pilot John Konrad in debrief with the Chance Vought Aircraft flight test engineering and maintenance staff after returning from the first test flight of the XF8U-1. (CVPR-391 VAHF)

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