Model Airplane News
June, 1935


Model Airplane News Cover for June, 1935 by Jo Kotula Grumman FF-1 FiFi

Grumman FF-1 "FiFi"
Model Airplane News Cover Art for June, 1935
by Jo Kotula
Click to Enlarge


The Grumman G-5 design was an American biplane fighter aircraft operated by the United States Navy during the 1930s. Designated FF-1, It was the first Navy aircraft with retractable landing gear.

 The Grumman FF-1 FiFi    The Grumman FF-1 FiFi      The Grumman FF-1 FiFi Leroy Grumman Retractable Landing Gear Patent No. 1,859,624

Grumman FF-1 "FiFi"
Grumman Retractable Landing Gear Patent No. 1,859,624
Click to Enlarge


The FF-1 was Grummanís first aircraft design for the US Navy. The prototype XFF-1 first flew in 1931. It was two-seat design, with an enclosed cockpit, fuselage of all-metal construction, and wings covered largely with fabric. The XFF-1 was powered by a 750 hp Wright Cyclone and reached a top speed of 201 mph, faster than any US Navy fighter in service at the time. FF-1s were delivered to Fighter Squadron VF-5B of the USS Lexington beginning in June 1933. In service the FF-1 became familiarly known as the "Fifi". The FF-1 was withdrawn from first-line US Navy squadrons by the end of 1936 and reallocated to reserve units, most still in service late in 1940. Later, 22 surviving FF-1s were modified with dual controls, redesignated FF-2 and used for instructional duties.

40 aircraft were acquired by the Spanish Republican Government in 1937 via intermediaries from Turkey to bypass the US embargo placed on belligerents during the Spanish Civil War. Designated the GE-23 Pedro Rico ("Rich Pete") by the Spanish Republican Air Force, the aircraft were used in the conflict, but were not well matched against their chief opponent, the Fiat CR.32, although one victory against a Heinkel was the only recorded "kill" by a Grumman biplane fighter. Eight survived to serve in the Franco's fascist Ejercito del Aire Espanol as the Delfin (Dolphin).

Although initially rejected as a fighter by the Royal Canadian Air Force as outdated and too slow, with the advent of war, 15 were accepted as the Goblin I and for a time constituted the sole fighter force on the east coast. single example was delivered to Nicaragua, and allegedly, one to Japan. The sole G-23 purchased by the Nicaraguan government saw limited service before being relegated to a scrap yard at Zololtan Air Field in 1942, destined to remain there until Grumman Aircraft acquired and restored the aircraft, donating it to the Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola, Florida

There is no video of the FF-1, but those of you with an interest in this airplane are in for atreat. There is a really hackneyed 1940 film called Flight Command that is made up almost entirely of stock footage of FF-1s -- including some spectacular formation flying, target practice, landings, takeoffs, etc. The plot is absolutely forgettable!

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