Project Cutlass Vought F7U Restoration

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The front end of Vought F7U Cutlass BuNo 129554 in storage at Paine Field. Photo Credit: Al Casby

A Vought F7U Cutlass restoration is on its way to fly again one day, thanks to the efforts of Project Cutlass.  Al Casby is the owner of two F7U Cutlass airframes, which are BuNo 129622 and BuNo 129554.  Mr. Casby has owned 622 since the early 1980’s, but it is a “badly damaged partial aircraft, usable for parts only”, he recently acquired 544 which previously belonged to Tom Cathcart and is currently stored at Paine Field in Washington State.  Mr. Casby hopes to bring 544 from Paine Field to Phoenix, Arizona to begin the restoration that he has been waiting to carry out for 44 years.   This is no easy task.  With a 21 foot width, and a high tail height, transportation is a difficult task. The aircraft cannot be completely disassembled without risking compromising the integrity of the airframe.  Mr. Casby stated, “Vought strongly suggested that neither the tails or the center-section wings ever be removed from the aircraft, going so far as to implore that should that need arise the airframe should be stricken.  There is no corrosion noted anywhere that would indicate a need for removal of these, so I do not want to remove them just to effect transport.” Have no fear, these challenges will definitely be overcome.  Check back soon for more updates!

If you know of a transportation company that would be willing to donate their time to help Project Cutlass’ efforts please contact us!

The project recently acquired a complete lighting set for the Cutlass in New Old Stock condition.  Some things that the Mr. Casby is looking for consist of:

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The back end of Vought F7U Cutlass BuNo 129554 in storage at Paine Field. Photo Credit: Al Casby

-Parts or components bearing a CV10- part number prefix

-Any Westinghouse J-46 engine parts or components

-F7U-3/-3M canopy perspex and windscreen plexiglass panels

-BF Goodrich G-3-721-2 wheel (1)

-Goodyear 9531077 wheel (2)

-Goodyear 9530987 Brake Assy (2)
Please contact us if you know of or are in possession of any of these parts or of any F7U Cutlass parts and help get this rare jet back in the sky.

Comments

  1. What happened to the Cutlass(s)@ Wlater Soplata’s farm?

  2. J-46’s? He cannot possibly be unaware of the engine’s poor reliability and the reason the F7U’s were referred teas the “Gutless Cutlass?” The 4000psi hydraulic system was also notorious for a very low MTBF. I wish him a very great deal of luck in his effort.

    • No, not unaware at all, however no other afterburning engine will fit the confines of the airframe allotted engine space, and no un-augmented engine that will fit will produce enough thrust to exceed the J46’s performance, as lackluster as it was. Therefore, the reliance on proper and diligent maintenance and inspection will have to carry the day. The J46, properly maintained, was equal to or exceeded expectations compared to contemporary “sized” engines of the day, however, these maintenance practices were often lacking in execution. Regarding the hydraulic system, it was the now-standard 3000 psi system, however the fitting and seal technology at the time was still designed around the then-standard 1500 psi. This will be corrected in the restoration to ensure reliability while retaining cosmetic accuracy . The F7U was the first fleet ready fighter to use this high-pressure system, and the hose and fitting technology of the day was not up to the task. Fortunately, this pressure is now common and the equipment is improved to handle the higher pressures. Thank you for your good wishes with the project, we can use every bit of support we can get!!

      Al

      • Al, thanks for the reply and for the correction on the psi of the hydraulic system. I was relying on “What Chief told us,” and we all know Chief can’t be wrong, 😉 Sorry to hear that engineering-wise, the bays cant accommodate a more modern engine, ala the Me-262 project. But I certainly concur that with a very rigorous maintenance program, modern fittings, hoses, etc. for all systems, the MTBF for engines and other systems will be raised to a much higher, and therefore significantly safer, level. Plus, you’re not trying to bring her aboard! Look forward to hearing more, going ahead.

        I wonder if you’ve heard the same hangar talk that a number of years ago, a University Aero Engineering department’s student project “redid” the F7U with thin wing, modern engines, systems, etc, including FBW and showed that with modern technology, the F7U would be able to hold its own with at least F-16/F-18 peers?

  3. Indeed, in fact Vought re-engineered the Cutlass to utilize a single J57 in a new center-section fuselage, and pitched the idea to BuAer to retrofit the existing F7U’s, as well as continue with further production. The Navy balked, most likely due to the advent of higher performing fighters in the pipeline, namely Vought’s own F8U. Had the Navy not been beholden to Westinghouse in the late ’40’s and early ’50’s, the -3 would probably have been designed around the J57 earlier. With an insanely incredible roll rate, and prodigious power, the F7U could have been side by side with the F8 in Vietnam. But, history is what it is. I interviewed Jack Christensen many years ago, who was a BuAer rep pilot in Dallas and later took the F7U-3M on the boat with VX-4. His conclusion was that properly maintained, the Cutlass was no worse than any other jet of its day, and in fact was the most aerodynamically versatile aircraft he ever flew. He loved the aircraft and had very little bad things to say about it, but did yearn for more robust powerplants. Interestingly, with few exceptions, the majority of engine-related incidents/accidents were caused by hose material failures, or maintenance errors. Properly maintained, and carefully operated, the J46’s were as reliable as any in the day.

    • James Watson says:

      I sure wish that this project was closer to my home, Arlington,Texas! I’d love to help with this project,as my late father worked at Chance Vought on this program as well as with the F-8..He was a flight test mechanic and always spoke highly of the Cutlass..Wishing you the best!

  4. Thank you James! Did your father retain any photos from his time with the F7U’s?

  5. Al, I’ve been interested in this project for a long time as the Cutlass is a really neat plane and have always wished to see one in the air! It looks like that’s a bit closer now. Did it get to Arizona yet? I’ve seen a picture of it all wrapped up in what looks like a new hangar. You make an excellent point on reliability regarding the hydraulic system. The plane was a first on so many levels and as with most trailblazers, problems arise but the potential was definitely there. Too bad the bad press is mostly what it is remembered now. I hope by restoring it and displaying it you can dispel some of the myths as Delmar Benjamin did with the Gee Bee! Good luck and keep us posted!

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