Bearcat inspired by FW-190?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Stephan Wilkinson, Dec 25, 2009.

  1. Stephan Wilkinson

    Stephan Wilkinson New Member

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    For a Bearcat cover story I'm doing for Aviation History magazine, for which I frequently write:

    Legend has it that the F8F Bearcat was "inspired" by the Focke-Wulf FW-190, after two Grumman pilots flew a captured -190 at the RAE, in England, in September 1943. Corky Meyer perpetuates this account in his book (with Steve Ginter), "Bearcat."

    The problem is, LeRoy Grumman is on record as having sent Chief Engineer William Schwendler a memo on 28 July 1943, almost two months before anybody from Grumman ever even saw a Focke-Wulf, that outlined all of the basic parameters of what became the Bearcat, which seems to me to mean that the -190 might well have encouraged Grumman that it was on the right track but in no way inspired the design of Grumman G58, which quickly became the F8F.

    Any comments?

    The obvious question is, how could Meyer have gotten it wrong? My surmise is that at the time when all this was going on, Meyer was a 24-year-old junior test pilot (he was not one of the two Grumman pilots who went to England to fly the Focke-Wulf) with six month of Grumman employment and little real access to senior management, and that he perhaps bought into company rumor and gossip at the time, but I have no way of knowing that.

    Is there anybody out there who can either corroborate what I'm guessing, or set me straight?
     
  2. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    I think the time line says it all, however that's not to say the Fw 190 did not influence the Bearcat. Any major changes made to the design after they examined the 190?
     
  3. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    The Bearcat and FW were similar in that they had a lot of horsepower and were pretty light. There is a post fairly recently that addresses that issue by Leonard but I don't remember the thread. Leonard is very authoritative about US WW2 naval AC.
     
  4. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Go to post # 193 in Best Pacific Fighter II by R Leonard
     
  5. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    There is no evidence to support a direct link to the Fw 190 relative to the Bearcat - other than simply a smaller, lighter example of a powerful fighter, in existance, than the F6F and P-47 and F4U.

    For the 190 to serve as an examined and thoroughly tested basis for F8 implies at least 12 months advanced inspection prior to spec and start of design to incorporate structural and system concepts.

    I agree ALL your questions re: Meyer. No junior test pilot has that kind of stroke with head designer.
     
  6. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    The Fw190 did have a unique design in the way it blended the engine cowling to the fuselage using a streamlined design.

    The fact that the Bearcat has a similiar design is just a logical step to improved aerodynamics that involve a large radial engine in a single-seat airframe.

    There were alot of parallel innovations on all sides that were the result of advancements in the technology of the time.
     
  7. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    US forces have encountered some fighters with streamlined designs before they've seen FW 190. 3-4 Japanese fighters come to mind, and both Val Betty were no bricks.
     
  8. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    Did the Bearcat have a fan-cooled engine ala -190?
     
  9. MikeGazdik

    MikeGazdik Member

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    I thought more specifically, the FW190 to F8F inspiration was something to do with the horizontal tail design?
     
  10. riacrato

    riacrato Member

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    The wiki article is pretty specific about the inputs, probably worth to check its sources. It also claims the original target weight of 8750 lbs was derived from the Fw.
     
  11. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    The source of this data, Meyer, is discussed in previous entries. In my opinion, the F8F just evolved from previous Grumman designs with no unique input from the Fw-190, other than maybe confirmation and possilby inspiration. The concept of a light plane with a big engine was not a revolutionary concept in performance. I suspect all of these high performance radial fighters were inspired by the Hughes H-1 racer, which flew in 1935.
     
  12. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Here's a comparison between the Fw190A and the F8F in 3-view...

    The Fw190 3-view shows the large cowl to tapering fuselage that was unique in that few other radial engined aircraft attempted such a design. The tails don't look comparable between the aircraft as well as the cockpit, which has been the focus of some discussions.

    It seems to me that the evolution of design has alot more to do with similarities than anything.
     

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  13. Timppa

    Timppa Active Member

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    #13 Timppa, Dec 26, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2009
    Only thing i can say, is:
    Trust only primary sources.
    Wikipedia or it's sources ( like Squadron/Signal publications) are not necessary reliable sources.
    They could be circulating the same stories.
    Wikipedia is compiled by the eager amateurs, they can be trusted as little as, eg, posters of this forum.
    For example, original (Northrop)Grumman memos or letters are the the primary sources.
    I think you are on the right track.
     
  14. Stephan Wilkinson

    Stephan Wilkinson New Member

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    I agree entirely about Wikipedia. The great thing about the Britannica was that it used primary sources, articles written by true authorities, academicians and extremely knowledgeable individuals, while Wiki is compiled by well-meaning amateurs who often have absolutely no firsthand knowledge of the subject they're writing about. All that seems to be needed is "a citation," and if you have that, it seems to stand as "proof." And as you say, the citation can be a Squadron/Signal publication, for better or worse.

    It's one thing that has helped to produce the Ignorantnet.

    Unfortunately, Grumman's archives no longer exist, which is typical of American companies that become part of conglomerates I'm currently trying to get in touch with somebody at the RAE who might be able to confirm (or deny) that the Grumman visit took place in September 1943. If in fact that date is wrong and the Grumman visit preceded Roy Grumman's memo of 28 July 1943, perhaps the -190 _did_ contribute serious inspiration to the F8F design. (If anybody has any suggestion as to who at the RAE might help, lemme know!)

    In answer to some questions and comments above:

    G58's original design gross weight was 8,500 pounds, and the 8,750 figure came somewhat later.

    Perhaps more relevant to the F8F than the Hughes H-1 is the Gee Bee series of racers. In fact Bob Hall, one of their engineers and test pilots (and one of the two guys who flew the FW-190) designed much of the Model Z when he worked for the Granville Brothers, which was the first of the big-engine, barrel-bodied Gee Bee racers.

    And no, the Bearcat did not have an engine-cooling fan like the Focke-Wulf's.

    Thank you all for your input, it's really of great help
     
  15. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Good luck Stephan, please let us know if you find anything.
     
  16. Stephan Wilkinson

    Stephan Wilkinson New Member

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    What I've discovered so far is that in his 2006 book "Corky Meyer's Flight Journal," he says the Grumman visit to the RAE took place "in early 1943," which would mean that the July 1943 Design G58 memo could indeed have been strongly based on the Grumman test pilots' enthusiasm for the FW-190.

    In his 2008 book with Steve Ginter, he says the RAE visit happened in "September 1943," which would preclude the July memo having anything to do with the FW-190 flights.

    I have a friend in England (aviation writer Mike Jerram, who you may know of) looking for records of the logbook of that captured -190, but it could just be that Meyer's memory failed him for the more recent book...I'll let you all know.
     
  17. alejandro_

    alejandro_ Member

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    Are you sure its Best Pacific Fighter II and not I? I cannot find the thread.
     
  18. Stephan Wilkinson

    Stephan Wilkinson New Member

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    Okay, here's my final opinion, and historian Richard Hallion, who I contacted, agrees with me and also thinks the FW-190/Bearcat connection is "either an outright urban myth or a story with a germ of truth."

    No matter what Corky Meyer says--and he refused my request for a telephone interview--I think it's preposterous to think that two experienced Grumman test pilot/engineers (Bob Hall and Bud Gillies) needed to travel to England and fly a German airplane in order to "discover" that a high power-to-weight ratio and a light, agile airframe produced high performance. Duh. Particularly when Bob Hall had already designed the original Gee Bee racer and was a highly experienced raceplane pilot himself.

    Are we to think--as Meyer has it--that Hall flew the FW-190, then climbed out and said (in effect), "Wow, I never knew a good power-to-weight ratio could produce high performance! Gotta race back to Bethpage and build one of these things!"

    Nonsense.
     
  19. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    I believe you are correct, 100%!
     
  20. riacrato

    riacrato Member

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    #20 riacrato, Dec 31, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
    'Believe' is exactly the type of 'thinking' need.:|
    We need more I believe.
     
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