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-   -   Grumman Bearcat inspired by FW-190? (https://www.pprune.org/aviation-history-nostalgia/399953-grumman-bearcat-inspired-fw-190-a.html)

stepwilk 24th Dec 2009 21:44

Grumman Bearcat inspired by FW-190?
I'm working on a cover story on the F8F Bearcat for the American magazine Aviation History, and I have a problem.

The common legend has long been that the Bearcat was designed as a direct result of a couple of Grumman pilots flying a captured Focke-Wulf FW-190 that the RAE had, and being so "inspired" by what seemed to them a simple, lightweight, high-horsepower fighter--the smallest-airframe/biggest-engine concept--that they rushed right back to Bethpage and urged the building of what would become the Bearcat.

I don't believe it, partly because I don't think that's the way fighters get developed and partly because I have at least some evidence showing that LeRoy Grumman outlined literally all of the basic parameters of the Grumman design G58, which would become the F8F, in a memo to Chief Engineer William Schwendler on 28 July 1943, and no Grumman pilot ever so much as saw an FW-190 until September of that year.

Problem is, Grumman test pilot Corky Meyer, in his book "Bearcat," recounts that legend as truth. It's hard to disbelieve a guy that close to the program--he flew the Bearcat throughout the test program--but for the fact that he was a 24-year-old test pilot who'd been with the company for six months at the time of the supposed FW-190 inspiration (he was not one of the two pilots who went to England to fly it) and I can imagine that he might have been taken in by company gossip as much as anybody without real access to what top management was doing, and that he later helped to perpetuate the myth as truth.

Can anybody offer any evidence one way or the other as to what the real story is? If you have serious references or expertise, I'll be happy to credit you in my story.

treadigraph 24th Dec 2009 22:43

In Corky Meyer's "Flight Journal" (page 144 - Clipping the Bearcat's Wings) he says that LeRoy Grumman, Bud Gillies and Bob Hall went to England in early 1943 to try out axis aircraft and were fascinated by the Fw190 and Hall/Gillies preferred it to the Hellcat... Probably the same article as you are looking at already Stephan. Surely that must be authoritative?

Might be worth looking out Stephen Grey's article on the Bearcat which appeared in Fighter Log and also Pilot - I'm copying this thread to a member of TFC who might be able to forward you a copy.

Happy Christmas!


PS Putnam "Grumman Aircraft since 1929" says Roy Grumman sent Bill Schwendler a confidential memo on 28/7/43 outlining the Bearcat concept - no mention of the Fw190.

stepwilk 24th Dec 2009 23:09

"Surely that must be authoritative?"

You'd be amazed, I've found as even a minimal researcher, the things that you'd _think_ would be authoritative ("Well, the guy worked for the company...") that turn out 50 years later to be the product of misunderstanding, faulty memory, gossip and unintentional exaggeration.

It's one of the reasons Wikipedia, for example, _can_ in many cases be useful but in many other cases is simply a now-hugely effective way of perpetuating urban legends in all sorts of fields: people who don't themselves know a great deal about the subject at hand post the information that they honestly feel is accurate, because they've heard it time and time again over the years, and as long as they have a reference they can cite (which seems to be Wiki's prime, and sole, requirement), it's accepted.

The Encyclopedia Britannica used experts, authorities, primary sources to write their articles; Wiki uses well-meaning amateurs. Big mistake, I think.

And yes, that memo from Roy Grumman to Bill Schwendler is exactly the one I referred to in my original post. It stipulated the F8F's parameters, and nobody from Grumman had yet to fly a Focke-Wulf. And Meyer is wrong about when the Grumman team went to England; it was September 1943.

treadigraph 24th Dec 2009 23:23

You'd be amazed,
I usually am! Prior to reading "Flight Journal" (last week) I'd always understood that the Roy Grumman concept was to simply nail as small an airframe as they could on to the backside of an R2800, to deliver a lightweight, hard charging fighter; never any mention of the Fw190. Did they ever succeed! I'm sure the gist of that appeared in Stephen Grey's article...

Incidently, is Corky still with us?

stepwilk 24th Dec 2009 23:55

Yes, Corky's apparently down in Florida. I have his phone number and plan to call him next week. Will I rely on what he says about the Focke-Wulf? Nope.

And yes, I do have his "Flight Journal" article.

Noyade 27th Dec 2009 04:54

The myth continues?

The common legend has long been that the Bearcat was designed as a direct result of a couple of Grumman pilots flying a captured Focke-Wulf FW-190
Grumman actually received the Focke Wulf Fw 190?


Load Toad 27th Dec 2009 06:36

I read that the design from the F8 was modified after the FW190 was tested, also something about reducing the weight to get better performance as well (manual folding wings, less armament).
But with a lot of stuff read on t'internet...

Good Vibs 27th Dec 2009 11:43

Bearcat size & performance
I would think that once Grumman saw what the Germans & Japanese were putting up in the sky their realized that bigger was not necessary better.
What about improving the Wildcat (smaller than the Hellcat)with a new more powerful engine (R2800)...therefore the result was the Bearcat.
All manufactures have their own ideas and also look at the competition to get other, perhaps better, ideas.

stepwilk 27th Dec 2009 14:01

"Grumman actually received the Focke Wulf Fw 190?"

No. Absolutely not, that clip you show is totally bogus. Two Grumman pilots flew a captured -190 at the RAE in 1943, and again at Pax River in 1944. There was never a Focke-Wulf at Bethpage.

Load Toad 27th Dec 2009 14:07

I think I was reading this: Grumman F8F Bearcat - History, Specifications and Pictures - Military Aircraft

stepwilk 27th Dec 2009 14:53

Wow. That piece is full of errors.

Mechta 27th Dec 2009 19:19

Could it be that the Grumman designers had already read the RAE test pilot's reports on the FW190 when they put together the Bearcat proposal, and the Grumman pilots flight in the FW190 a couple of months later were just a confirmation of what they, or their bosses, had already read?

The RAE FW190 was captured on the night of 16/17 April, so there was plently of time for it to be test flown and reports circulated to Grumman by the time of the 28 July memo.

stepwilk 27th Dec 2009 19:33

Mechta, I'm guessing--emphasis on "guessing"--that a grand old (comparatively) U. S. company like Grumman wasn't going to do much more than casually notice a British test pilot's report, if that, for better or worse. I certainly doubt they'd do anything like starting to design an airplane based on what "some Brit" had to say.

This get increasingly confusing. At one point, Corky Meyer said the Grumman trip to the RAE took place in September 1943, which makes some sense, since I doubt the RAF was going to let some American Navy types rush over and test a Focke-Wulf early in its time with them. At another point, Meyer says the trip took place "early in 1943," which makes far less sense if, let's say, the RAF alllowed the Americans to come over in mid-May to fly an airplane captured just a month earlier; that hardly seems to me like "early" in the year. Even if they let the Americans fly it the day after it was captured--hardly likely--that still isn't what I'd phrase as "early" in the year.

Mechta 27th Dec 2009 20:12

There was of course the Pembrey FW190 which landed on 23 June 1942, so there would have been plenty of time to fly that too. It is always possible that there were American pilots at RAE flying the aircraft as a matter of course.

Ultimately we need to see the aircraft logbook for the captured FW190s, to know when they were flown by Americans, but this link entitled 'Captured Butcher Birds' Atelier Kecay: Captured Butcherbirds - FW-190
includes this statement:

The first Fw 190 in the US was a G-3 Wrk. Nr. 160043, which arrived at Wright Field in August 1943

This is a youtube video of some captured aircraft being tested, and has quite a lot of written info too:

YouTube - Captured German Aircraft

stepwilk 27th Dec 2009 21:36

I have an aviation historian/writer in England, Mike Jerram, currently looking for that logbook--not the actual logbook, of course, but some record of what's in it.

Everything I've ever seen in print that credits Grumman with having based its Bearcat on the FW-190 _specifically_ refers to Bob Hall and Bud Gillies having flown the airplane that the RAE had in "early 1943" (or "September 1943," but that makes no sense, as explained above). Nobody has ever breathed a word about the opinions of AAF, RAF, Luftwaffe or other pilots who might have flown it. If they did fly it, Grumman was not about to take their advice and only their advice.

If they did read reports from Wright Field, let's say, at most it would move them to decide to also get their hands on a -190.

HarmoniousDragmaster 27th Dec 2009 21:48

Would it be the design itself, or merely the cowl of the engine?

The reason I ask this is because the cowl for the Bristol Centaurus of the Tempest and Fury benefitted hugely from examination of the Fw190. In one history I read an engineer (who may have been Stanley Hooker, but I don't really remember) is quoted as saying we never did cowl a radial satisfactorily until we got our hands on the Fw190 and had a look at how the Germans were doing it

stepwilk 27th Dec 2009 22:58

No, the whole FW-190/Bearcat argument devolves simply from whether the Focke-Wulf was a small-airframe/big-engine "innovation" that inspired the design of a retrograde (in terms of being substantially smaller and lighter) U.S. fighter built to the same parameters. It had nothing to do with whether the Focke-Wulf had a cooling fan, or a tighter cowl, or wider landing gear...it was much more basic than that. There were no specific FW-190 features, such as fuel injection (which actually I'm not sure the -190 had) or automatic power control (which the Americans in fact didn't like) that found their way into the F8F.

The Americans were building bigger and heavier fighters, even getting well into twin-engine fighters (F7F, P-38, F-82) and the legend is that the Germans pointed the way in a different direction. To me, it's equivalent to an American engineer driving a 300SLR and then going home to design a Viper...

I don't know that I buy the Bearcat/Focke-Wulf legend, but I'm still trying to research it.

And you people are all a huge help. Thank you!

Load Toad 27th Dec 2009 23:05

I certainly doubt they'd do anything like starting to design an airplane based on what "some Brit" had to say.
What - like the fighter specification which resulted in the Mustang and then the suggestion to fit a Merlin engine to it?

The US and the UK cooperated quite a bit even before the US entered the war; to their credit.

Load Toad 27th Dec 2009 23:07

Reading histories of fighters like the Bf / Me 109 and Spitfire - that was all about the most powerful (& reliable) engines on the smallest airframes.

stepwilk 27th Dec 2009 23:13

"The US and the UK cooperated quite a bit even before the US entered the war; to their credit."

The Navy is another world.

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