Model Airplane News
October, 1952

Model Airplane News Cover for October, 1952 by Jo Kotula Vought F7U Cutlass

Vought F7U "Cutlass"
Model Airplane News Cover Art for October, 1952
by Jo Kotula
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The Vought F7U Cutlass was a United States Navy carrier-based jet fighter and fighter-bomber of the early Cold War era. It was a highly unusual, semi-tailless design, allegedly based on data and plans captured at the end of World War II. The F7U was the last aircraft designed by Rex Beisel, who was responsible for the first fighter ever designed specifically for the US Navy, the Curtiss TS-1 of 1922.

 The Vought F7U Cutlass     The Vought F7U Cutlass     Rex Beisel Patent for Curtiss TS-1 no. 1,666,769

Photos of the Vought F7U "Cutlass"
right: Rex Beisel Patent for Curtiss TS-1 No. 1,666,769
Click to Enlarge

Regarded as a radical departure from traditional aircraft design, the Cutlass suffered from numerous technical and handling problems throughout its short service career. The type was responsible for the deaths of four test pilots and 21 other U.S. Navy pilots. Over one quarter of all Cutlasses built were destroyed in accidents. The very long nose landing gear strut required for high angle of attack takeoffs was rather weak, and a collapse could seriously jeopardize the pilot's safety. The F7U was also largely let down by its underpowered Westinghouse turbojets, an engine which some pilots wryly observed put out less heat than the same company's toasters. Naval aviators referred to the F7U as the "gutless cutlass" or, in kinder moments, as the "praying mantis".

The Blue Angels Navy aerobatics team flew two F7U-1 Cutlasses as a side act during their 1953 show season in an effort to promote the new aircraft, but did not use them as part of their regular formation act. Both the pilots and ground crews found the aircraft generally unsatisfactory and it was apparent that the type was still experiencing teething troubles. Following two serious incidents the F7U were deemed unsuitable for demonstration flying and were flown to Naval Air Station Memphis, where they were abandoned to become aircraft maintenance instructional airframes for the Naval Technical Training Center.

Here is a video of the Vought F7U "Cutlass" in action:

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