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Model Mystery Replies

The Model in question appears to be modified version of the Vought Cutlass NAVY carrier fighter from the late 1950s and early 1960s with possibly enlarged vertical stabilizers, perhaps investigating tail less flight configurations for design insights. This may also be a model of the last version used by the NAVY and later relegated to research and development of weapons (perhaps a flight test modification proposal).

The full-size aircraft started out with less than optimal engine power due to engine development lagging airframe development. For carrier operations (launch) the nose gear was extended to give a very nose high takeoff attitude, which increased when the catapult fired. This got the flapless wing to the takeoff angle of attack as it left the deck. In flight the nose gear shortened before retraction and landing was with it in the “short” configuration, and main gear hit second after the tail hook followed by the nose coming down hard on the gear, spilling wing lift quickly unless a bolter occurred.

The configuration reportedly flew well but had problems with weight growth exceeding later engine improvements until the last models got a much increased thrust re-engine but by then the NAVY was already phasing it out for more conventional aircraft, roughly when the F4 came into the fleet if I remember correctly.

As an aside, in the era, I received a set of solid plastic models of various fighter aircraft, and of the lot the Cutlass model was the only one that “flew” smoothly and stabile in bathtub water environment (fluid density ~800 x air density made good sense for rough analysis).

I hope this gives you some useful info and leads to track down the CUTLASS, perhaps in Jane's books of the era.

William J. Stewart

EAA 22316, VAA 7493

USNR Retired.

Co-owner of 1927 Heath Parasol holding N6882S awaiting completion of restoration.


The model shown bears a striking resemblance to the Chance Vought F7U Cutlass and I would say without hesitation that that is what it is. It does not appear to be of wind tunnel model quality. It appears to be made of plastic or wood and there are no signs of pressure taps. Also can't tell if there is a mounting point for connection to a tunnel balance as it would be on the bottom of the model and only the top of the model is shown.

As to what Lockheed would be doing with it in their wind tunnel I can only conjecture:

- Chance Vought rented and was doing some testing in the Lockheed tunnel?

- Lockheed was investigating tailless airplane designs and used this as one of the test articles to gather data?

- Lockheed was doing the tunnel tests under contract to Chance Vought?

- It wasn't tested by Lockheed at all?

Vincent Devino

EAA 354217

Chief Engineer (Retired)

Lockheed Martin F-22 Configuration Development Team


I believe this information [Lockheed wind-tunnel testing] is incorrect unless Lockheed was doing wind tunnel work for Vought in the mid 1940s. The model appears to have the exact plane-form of the Chance/Vought F-7U Cutlass.

My father worked on these aircraft during his career in the Navy. He described them as alternately, "A decade ahead of their time" and "A maintenance nightmare." He used to laugh when he talked about, if I recall correctly, the aircraft’s 7 separate hydraulic systems, and how they were impossible to keep pressure tight. He told stories about mechanics ducking under the aircraft and wiping the seeping hydraulic fluid off the belly of the fuselage so the pilots wouldn't deadline the aircraft during the pre-flight.

Information I have on the F-7U:

Development: 1946-1949

Delivery: 1951-1955

Aircraft produced: F7U-1 17, F7U-3 290


Length: 43'2"

Span: 39'9"

Power: 2 Westinghouse J-46-we-8

Weight : 32,500 Lb max

Max. spd: 606 Kn.

Ceiling: 40,800 ft.

Tim Brandenburg

EAA 601701


I have written two stories on the F7Cutlass, with a lot of research, and a conversation with one of the astronauts who instructed in the plane. It was a disaster. The first three test pilots were killed in the first three prototypes. The primary problem was the engine that General Electric promised and delivered, never delivered the thrust that GE has promised…. Subsequently when you firewalled the throttle, the thrust never came. One of my close friends flew them in the U.S. Navy and I had a long conversation with him regarding the Cutlass. Some of the flying characteristics were excellent (doing aerobatics pulling high g’s) but the worst aspect was a wave off from a carrier landing, and advancing the throttle did not bring the thrust up to what you wanted. I had several conversations with Wally Schirra who had flown them in the Navy, and while he liked the plane, he hated GE for the engine weakness. The first time I talked with him he asked me if I wanted to know how to get the plane out of a flat spin. “Eject!!! Cause you can’t get it out of a flat spin…” The stories were both written a few years ago.

Jack Morrissey


Warbirds Magazine


The model is a Vought F7U. Nickname was Cutlass. The first versions flew with an Allison J-35-A-29 engine. They were later replaced with a Westinghouse J46-WE-8A engine which had an afterburner. A total of 307 were built. This included 12 photo planes which never became operational. They first flew on Dec. 20, 1951. The J46s were not available until two years later.

Gordon D. King

EAA 267660


Just received the May, '07 issue of Sport Aviation. Fantastic as usual. The model on page 128 sure looks like a Chance Vought F7U Cutlass- a short-lived Navy fighter from the middle '50's. Plagued with nosegear problems and called the "Gutless" for its lack of power, it still captured the imagination of this '50's kid.

Richard Anderson

EAA 235082


In the May 2007 issue of Sport Aviation on page 128 is a picture of a model aircraft. The aircraft type is a Chance Vought F7U-1 “Cutlass”. I believe it to be a -1 rather than a -3 due to the forward fuselage and canopy shape; however, without a clear profile perspective I can’t be sure. The model appears to be similar to a desktop model I obtained when I work at Vought. It is not a wind tunnel model nor is the configuration associated with Lockheed.

Dudley Smith

EAA Lifetime Member 0245743


The model looks exactly like a Vought Cutlass, and early Navy jet. Note even the aft fuselage shaped for the twin exhausts used in the "gutless Cutlass" as my Naval Aviator father always called them.

The prominent (dare I say bulbous) cockpit is omitted in this model, but the wind planform and the location and shape of the vertical stabilizers also matches the Cutlass.

Bill Freeman

EAA 148597

Long EZ builder and pilot since 1989


This is certainly related to the Chance Vought F7U Cutlass navy carrier jet. Configuration is exactly the same, two engines, etc.

I don't know of the relationship between Lockheed and Chance Vought but information and tunnel data could have been shared late ’40s early ’50s time frame.

F7U was an outstanding warplane characterized by navy pilots as VERY easy to

fly. To my knowledge no restored examples are flying at now. What a shame!!!

Christopher Starbuck

EAA 340727


I just saw the Model Mystery in the EAA attic section of the newest Sport Aviation. I can't tell the purpose for using it, but I do know that it is a Vought F7U Cutlass. I have attached a website with references and many photos of this aircraft. This is just a guess, but it appears to have been painted in the Blue Angels colors as they were when two of them were solo aircraft for the team during the Panther years.


Wesley Perkins

EAA 735224


It appears to me that this is a wood wind tunnel model used to demonstrate the concept of a tailless aircraft. To be more specific, I believe that this is a model of the Vought F7U tailless fighter, more commonly known as the "Cutlass". If you compare your model to photos of an F7U, I am sure you will see, as I have, the unmistakable similarity in the wing, "tail", and exhaust areas of each. How Lockheed got this, I do not know, but my guess is that when Vought was no more, (sob, sob, the creators of the mighty Corsair are gone!) Lockheed managed to procure some of their "stuff"(such as this model) in an effort to further advance their research in the area of tailless aircraft. This is not meant to insult Cutlass fans, but I happen to remember the fact that the Cutlass was plagued with problems, so why Lockheed would stick their nose in it is beyond me!!! (Again, no offense intended). Again, this is somewhat of an educated guess, but I am having a hard time believing that this is Lockheed's creation, there are just to many similarities!

Christopher Thulien

EAA 747682


Never ask me airplane questions unless you have all day to listen to me ramble!

Cutlasses came in two versions: F7U-1 and the F7U-3. The -3 was actually a complete redesign of the woeful -1. It was bigger, faster, flew better, etc, but it still had some issues that made it unsuitable to join the fleet in any numbers. Even then, the -3's service life was pretty short.

When I was a kid, I played in several derelict Cutlasses at NAS Oceana, Va. They were pretty big airplanes with a very tall nosewheel strut. I would crawl into one of the empty exhaust ports, then thru the fuselage and out the intake before scrambling and clawing my way into the cockpit. I doubt if there are more than a couple airframes left anywhere in the world these days. The Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola has one and I saw one for sale in Trade-A-plane not long ago. Go figure.

All the -1s were painted Navy blue. The Blue Angels flew a pair of 'em for a while as solo aircraft because the Navy was trying to ramp up its image, so at least two sported the Blue's unique blue and yellow paint scheme; they never flew the -3. The -3s were flown either unpainted or in the Navy's popular gull gray and white scheme. Your model looks to me like a -1 and was painted in the Navy blue scheme before somebody decided to try to sand it all off. It's definitely not the Blue Angel paint job.

BTW, model airplanes were not always plastic like they are today. Back when this one was made, wooden models were still pretty common. The three or four pieces of the kit would come in more or less the right shape, but the builder had to carve and sand them to the final shape, then glue 'em together and paint it.

I grew up with a lot of the 50s and 60s airplanes that people don't know much about any more and love to talk about them.

Rob Coffman


The model in the picture on Page 128 in this month's EAA Sport Aviation appears to be a model of the F7U Cutlass which was built by Chance Vought for the Navy in the 1950s. It was a single-seat twin-jet carrier-based fighter.

As a kid I built several models of this fighter.


Gary Sanders, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)

EAA 788740


I cannot be sure from the photograph, but the distinctive wing shape, tailless design, and twin rudders makes me strongly suspect the model is of a Navy Vought F7U Cutlass.

See image of design at


Known as the "gutless Cutlass" it was one of the early 1950's vintage carrier jets. I remember building a plastic model of it about 1957 or 1958.

Ken Smith

EAA 0320656


Your Model Mystery really caught my eye. It is an F7U Cutlass. I produce this aircraft in 1/7th scale. It is very doubtful that Lockheed ever had anything to do with this plane. It was manufactured by Chance Vaught Aircraft Corp. If Lockheed had any part of it, it was possibly in the development stages. Wind tunnel testing etc.

Your mystery image appears to be an F7U-1. There was also an F7U-3, but it had a few different lines from what I can tell from the image. The F7U-3 had a pronounced" tilted up" (from the rear) canopy profile. This was developed in order for the pilot to have a better view of the carrier deck coming at him. In the landing configuration and speed, the Cutlass had an extreme angle of attack.

The following is an excerpt from my website:

For those of you who may not know about this unique plane that was produced by the old Chance Vaught Aircraft Co., we suggest that you go to:

http://www.robotgroup.org/lubbock/aircraftofthemonth/12-99.html .

While I was going through Navy Boot Camp at San Diego, CA in early 1955, we were out on a rifle range at a location near Miramar Naval Air Station, CA. I can remember these planes coming in on landing finals with the canopy open. I didn't know why at the time. I figured out then that it probably wasn't for ventilation. I have since learned that the ejection seats they had in those days could not eject through the canopy, and at that low altitude, the pilot did not have time to open the canopy prior to the ejection sequence. This plane was notorious for flaming out for just about any and everything (even when firing its own guns). The pilot needed all the split seconds he could get to eject, which was his only alternative for flame-out at low altitude.

In spite of all the bad press this plane got, pilots loved to fly it. When the engines were running good and you had a lot of altitude, it is claimed to have been a very high performer to fly, as well as a neat looking "flying wing." The planes major sin was that the airframe was ahead of engine technology of the day. The plane was dubbed the Gutless Cutlass (also sometimes called the "Ensign Killer"). As I see some of the later designs, i.e., the F-4 Phantom, there is strong evidence that with enough power, you can get a railroad boxcar to travel at Mach II.

My web site is http://jensenjetmodels.com. Please be patient while it opens (the first time).

Additional comments: 1)The Navy actually took a squadron of these to sea. Maybe two squadrons, I'm not sure on this. They were working to have these be the "Blue Angels" planes at one time; however, that did not materialize.

Marv Jensen

EAA 778747


Regarding the wind tunnel model pictured on page 128 of the May, 2007 issue, the model appears to be one of the Chance-Vought F7U-3 Cutlass carrier based fighter.

There are five of them in museums, including the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.

See you in Oshkosh !!

Ron Fee

EAA 242552


Although the black background in the photo makes some of the details hard to distinguish, it appears quite certain to be a model of a Navy F7U Cutlass. I am well familiar with this plane since my father purchased one in 1962 for $200 on a surplus Navy bid. Yes, I got the zeros right! Only about three or four of these early 1950’s jet fighters remain, one of which my father still owns.

The Cutlass had a short military service due to ongoing development problems. Most problematic were its engines. Though it was the first U.S. jet fighter to employ afterburners, the engines ended up producing far less thrust than originally designed for. Among a series of negative nicknames such as “Ensign Eliminator,” the plane's engine problems also inspired the name “Gutless Cutlass.”

Of the pilots who flew the Cutlass, the most famous had to be our recently deceased astronaut hero and EAA member Wally Schirra. In his pre-NASA days while serving as a Navy test pilot, Schirra was well known for his expertise in flight testing this pioneering jet that was considered by some to have suffered the fate of being too far ahead of its time.

Wally Soplata

Lt. Col., USAF (retired)

EAA 85601


In June 1945, the U.S. Navy launched a competition for a fighter able to fly at 600 mph high speed. Vought submitted the Model V-346 design, which was based from German Arado’s tailless fighter documents. Vought’s engineers believed that deleting the tailplane would solve aerodynamic problem to increase maximum speed. In June 1946, Navy chose Vought’s design as the winner and ordered three prototypes, designated XF7U-1 Cutlass. The first prototype made its first flight in September 1948. Performance was excellent but embarrassed with engine problems as the early jet was not reliable at that time. With the outbreak of the Korean War, U.S. Navy urgently needed this super fighter to enter in service even though all the three prototypes were crashed by accidents.

14 production aircrafts were made but continued fatal accidents. In 1951, in hope to improve the F7U-1, Vought redesigned the aircraft to become the F7U-3. The remaining F7U-1s were grounded and assigned to training command in 1952.

Henry Sickels

EAA 517731


The "model mystery" in May issue is (ta-da!) a Chance- Vought Cutlass, Navy

fighter from the 50s.

When I was a little kid I lived in Albuquerque and used to see that plane land at

Kirkland airbase. Our apt. was right across from the desert flight path-that was a really neat little plane, totally forgotten by most people. Looks like the precursor, design-wise, to the F-14 Tomcat, though the Cutlass was underpowered compared to other fighters of the time-having Westinghouse engines (never knew they made engines).

Don't know what a Navy plane was doing stationed at an Air Force Base, but Kirtland was some kind of joint base at the time. Jim Morrison's (of the Doors) father was stationed there at the time. Later he became a Navy admiral (or perhaps he was already) and was stationed in Florida.

Other planes we saw landing at Kirtland were the F-80 Starfighter (I believe it was) and the B-47 and B-36 bombers--the former had rocket-assist takeoff and parachute "braking" at landing, the latter was something else to see: largest military prop plane (excluding cargo planes) ever built- had 6 pusher-type prop engines and 4 outboard jet engines: 10 total.

Thomas O’Neill


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