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F6U Pirate

Like its counterparts with bustling assembly lines pushing out hundreds of aircraft to meet the demands of World War II, the leadership and engineering teams at Chance Vought were not unmindful of the future and the military's keen interest in the capability of the jet engine. To this end, following the first successful flight of a U.S. military jet aircraft, the XP-59 Airacomet, in 1942, Chance Vought joined other aircraft manufacturers in submitting design proposals for their own jets. The result was the XF6U-1 Pirate, which compared to the F4U Corsair that was synonymous with Vought was not overly impressive in appearance. Sitting lower to the ground with a rounded pug nose, the jet's wingspan was some eleven feet shorter than that of the F4U with the XF6U's straight stubby wings not nearly as graceful and the inverted gull wings of the Corsair. Yet, with a top speed of 564 mph, the Pirate could easily outpace the propeller-drive Corsair, and the jet featured an innovative weight saving measure that was intended to help wring out the most performance possible out of the airplane. This came in the form of skin made of "metalite," a Vought creation in which a layer of balsa fit between two sheets of aluminum alloy.

Nearly five years after the ordering of the first prototypes, the Navy accepted the first of thirty production F6U-1 pirates in August 1949. However, only one squadron was destined to operate them, a string of mechanical problems and the fact that it was underpowered, a common denominator among early jets, causing a top admiral to write that the Pirate was "so sub-marginal in performance that combat utilization is not feasible."

The Museum's F6U-1 Pirate (Bureau Number 122479) was the second production airplane and the sole surviving aircraft of its type. Once a hulk used for weapons testing in the New Mexico desert, the airplane was largely restored by the Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation and arrived at the Museum in 2012. Its total flight time was just 94 hours.

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