Losses and Aviation Safety

Rare Colored Video Shows F7U Jets in action aboard USS Hancock (along with the Infamous Cutlass Ramp Strike Accident)

Taken in 1955 the cool video in this post is an 8mm home movie film footage showing the US Navy F7U Cutlass fighter jets in action.   

Taken in 1955 the cool video in this post is an 8mm home movie film footage showing the US Navy F7U Cutlass fighter jets in action.   

The film starts with footage of the downtown San Diego, California skyline from a high vantage point in a hotel or building.  From the panoramic views of the city, the film transitions aboard USS Hancock (CVA-19) aircraft carrier, with many Vought F7U Cutlass jets taking off and landing (and also an F9F-6 Cougar trapping aboard at 1:54). 

The film ends with the infamous F7U ramp strike accident that killed the pilot and three crew members (you can see the fire after the accident at 2:48 and then the fire right off the deck of the aircraft carrier at 2:51). 

Boasting a unique “tailless” design, the F7U Cutlass incorporated a number of new and advanced features for its time. Designed by Rex Beisel, who also designed the unconventional looking F4U Corsair, the F7U was ahead of its time and the capabilities of available power plants, resulting in its nickname the “Gutless Cutlass.” Structural shortcomings and its underpowered engines plagued it, resulting in several deaths and the loss of over a quarter of all F7Us built to operational accidents.

Designated the XF7U-1 Cutlass, the prototype made its first flight in September 1948, but experienced immediate difficulties. All three XF7U-1 prototypes crashed, as did two of the first fourteen production aircraft eventually ordered by the Navy. Subsequently, a 1949 order for 88 F7U-2s was canceled in favor of the F7U-3, which incorporated many improvements. It was still underpowered, however, and had a potentially deadly nose-wheel design.

Variants of the Cutlass equipped a number of Navy squadrons, among them the F7U-3M, which was flown by Attack Squadron (VA) 83 in March 1956, when it went aboard the carrier USS Intrepid (CVA-11), becoming the first Navy squadron to deploy overseas with missiles.

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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