Pilots, in Their Own Words
- By J.R. Dailey
- Air & Space magazine, August 2013
"Viewport," by National Air and Space Museum director J.R. Dailey, opens each issue of Air & Space magazine. The column highlights the Museum's ongoing efforts to preserve the history of aviation and spaceflight. This article appeared in the August issue.
The Vought F7U Cutlass has been called cantankerous—and a lot worse. In this issue, you’ll read about the pilots who flew it, or tried to. In May 2011, we were lucky enough to have one of those pilots address an audience at the National Air and Space Museum. Nine-victory World War II ace Admiral Edward L. “Whitey” Feightner, delivering the Museum’s annual Charles A. Lindbergh Lecture, told us about his experiences in the Cutlass and in other aircraft he flew, including the Grumman F6F Hellcat. If you’re a subscriber to this magazine, you can watch a short clip from that talk on your iPad as you read the Cutlass article: Air & Space/Smithsonian is now available on the iPad, with all the stories and photographs in the print edition plus extras, like this short video of Whitey Feightner’s talk as well as a video of the Cutlass landing on an aircraft carrier.
Seeing video of a Cutlass in action is a rare experience; nowhere today can you see an F7U fly. But sometimes there’s no substitute for seeing the real thing, and after reading the photo essay on the legends of air racing (p. 18), race fans will want to visit the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia to see Darryl Greenamyer’s Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, Conquest I. Coming at the end of World War II, the Bearcat was the top performer in the series of 1940s-era Grumman ’cats. Able to climb to 10,000 feet in just over 90 seconds, the F8F would have been an excellent fleet defender, but victory was achieved before the Bearcats entered operation.
Greenamyer’s Bearcat used the same type of engine, a Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp, that powered the fighters in the 1940s, but his race team worked on it to get an additional 850 horsepower. That made him hard to beat.
In the Museum, just a few steps from Conquest I is another raceplane mentioned in the photo essay. Nemesis revolutionized Formula One Racing, a category known for promoting innovation. All Formula One racers have 100-horsepower Continental engines; whether one flies faster than another comes down to the airframe. Nemesis is the first racer to be built of carbon-reinforced plastics and the first to use a custom-designed natural laminar-flow wing. It flew 290 mph; its follow-on, NemesisNXT, is the first kit-built aircraft to fly faster than 400 mph.
Two racing pilots you’ll read about in this issue will come to the National Air and Space Museum this fall to talk about the airplanes they’ve raced at Reno: Steve Hinton, the current safety and pace-plane pilot at the National Championship Air Races, who twice won the Gold Unlimited race, and his son, Steven, also an air racing champion. A future digital edition of Air & Space may bring you a short clip from their presentation. Visit the Museum’s Web site airandspace.si.edu to see the full programs that we’ve hosted over the past few years—Feightner’s lecture, “Memoirs from an Aviator’s Logbook”; recollections from the crew of Apollo 13; a description of the Voyager spacecraft journeys by chief scientist Edward Stone; and this fall, “Air Racing Champions: It Runs in the Family.”