Vought/Goodyear Corsairs [@ RAF Duxford]
The Corsair first saw service with the US Marine Corps, but it was the British Fleet Air Arm who first operated the aircraft from aircraft carriers. The prototype XF4U- 1 flew for the first time on 29th May 1940, and on 2nd April 1941 Vought received a contract for 584 aircraft, the type to be named Corsair in US Navy service. Because of many essential modifications, however, the first production aircraft did not fly until 25th June 1942. The Brewster and Goodyear companies were designated associated constructors; the former subsequently built 735 aircraft under the designation F3A-1 (its contract was cancelled in 1944 because of shoddy working practices) and the latter 3808, designated FG-1. The first Vought built F4U-1 was delivered to the USN on 31st July 1944. Carrier trials began in September 1942 and the first Corsair unit, Marine Fighting Squadron VMF-2 14, was declared combat-ready in December, deploying to Guadalcanal in February 1943. After trials with VF-12, the Corsair became operational with Navy Fighting Squadron VF-17 in April 1943, deploying to a land base in New Georgia in September.
The Corsair (88297) in the foreground was built by Goodyear at Akron, Ohio, as an FG-1D with a Pratt & Whitney R2800-8W. 88297 flew with the US Navy, at Guam, in 1945 and saw combat in the Pacific before being transferred to the US Naval Air Reserve in June 1946 until February 1955. Saved from the smelters in 1960, 88297 is now with the Fighter Collection at RAF Duxford. In the photograph 88297 is painted as KD345 of 1850 Squadron based on HMS Vengeance of the British Pacific Fleet in December of 1945. The paint scheme is essentially an all over deep blue, with the large British Pacific Fleet roundel and a bright yellow cowling and prop spinner.
Vought/Goodyear FG-1D Corsair (88391) [@ RAF Duxford]
Manufacture of the Corsair ceased in 1952 allowing the type to boast the longest production run of any American piston engined fighter. Of the 12,681 Corsairs built during World War II, 2012 were supplied to the Royal Navy, equipping 19 squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm. Some of these aircraft were diverted to equip three squadrons of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, operating in the Solomons. The first RN squadron to arm with the Corsair I (F4U-1) was No 1830, on 1st June 1943. RN Corsair squadrons provided cover for Fleet Air Arm attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz in 1944, and subsequently deployed to the Pacific with a British carrier task force in 1945, taking part in the final offensives against Japan. Corsair variants used by the RN were the Corsair II (F4U-1A), Corsair III (F3A-1) and Corsair IV (FG-1).
Built in 1944 by the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation, 88391 is the only Royal New Zealand Air Force [RNZAF] aircraft to see action in WW2 that is still airworthy. 88391 arrived at the RNZAF Corsair Assembly Unit, Los Negros, aboard USS John Wise during June 1945 and was brought on charge (BOC) 17th August 1945. After the war 88391 was flown back to New Zealand to be placed in open storage. Declared surplus in April 1949 it passed into private hands in May 1949. In 1971, 88391 was shipped to the USA via Canada where it suffered a great deal of transportation and storage damage when the Canadian Customs impounded it. Eleven years after leaving New Zealand shores, having gone full circle back to the USA, 88391 took to the air on 17th July 1982 from Paine Field, Everett, Washington. From 1991, 888391 as been based in the UK. In the photograph 88391 is not its authentic RNZAF colour scheme but in that of the Skull & Cross Bones squadron VF-17. One of the most successful of all United States Navy Fighting Squadrons in World War II, VF-17 was the first Navy Squadron into combat action with the new Corsair and was influential in proving this powerful new fighter to the Navy.
Vought/Goodyear F4U-4A Corsair (97264) [@ RAF Duxford]
Variants of the Corsair included the F4U-1C cannon-armed fighter, F4U-lD fighter-bomber, F4U-2 night fighter, F4U-3 high altitude research version, and F4U-4 fighter. Post-war developments included the F4U-5 fighter-bomber, F4U-5N night fighter and F4U-5P photo reconnaissance aircraft, all of which gave tremendous service during the Korean War of 1950-53, the F4U-6 (later A-1) attack aircraft and the F4U-7, also supplied to the French Navy. French Corsairs saw combat during the Anglo-French Suez operation of 1956. All variants were powered by the Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp R2800 series engine [photograph - right]
97264 accepted into the U.S. Navy on 22nd October 1945 and allocated to a U.S. Navy storage facility. It remained there until the latter part of 1948 when it was placed into service with VMF-223 squadron. 97262 continued to fly with a number of squadrons until October 1956 when 97264 was officially struck off from the U.S. Navy's active roster after exactly 11 years of active service. 97264 was then flown to the outdoor storage facility at the Litchfield Park Naval Air Station in Arizona and parked alongside hundreds of other obsolete Corsairs to await its fate. Purchased in 1959 it passed into private hands and remained grounded until, after restoration, it took to the air again during February 1992. The plane is currently operated out of the Dijon-Darois Airfield, France.