Chance-Vought F4U-5NL Corsair
Operator: Les Casques de Cuir collection
Year of Manufacture: 1951
Powered by: Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W radial
Colour Scheme: US Navy VC-3 ‘Blue Nemesis’ Korean theatre 1952 aboard the USS Valley Forge
Legendary aircraft per excellence of the Pacific War, the Chance-Vought Corsair is recognizable in particular by its characteristic silhouette with its W-shaped wing. Now a collector's aircraft, it was in its time a formidable aircraft in the hands of pilots of the US Navy and Marines during World War II and the Korean War. It equipped, in its latest version, the French Naval Air Force as well as several South American countries.
The Corsair is one of the most famous aircraft also thanks to the fictionalized history of the famous squadron of Baa Baa Black Sheep, led by the famous Major Greg "Papy" Boyington and its adaptation television.
The story of this Corsair, night fighter, begins on September 26, 1951, when it was taken over by the US Navy. Assigned to VC-3 in April 1952, Corsair Bu Nr. 124724 was sent to Korea aboard USS Valley Forge (aircraft carrier) in December. His first round of operations lasted 6 months. In August 1953, he was detached aboard the USS Boxer (aircraft carrier). Its 2nd tour of operations ended in November 1953 and was returned to the United States, after a year of almost continuous fighting. Upon its return, it is not known if it continued to fly or if it was placed in a depot. The last known information indicates that in March 1956, it was sent to the desert of Litchfield Park in Arizona, for storage. At the beginning of the 1950s, certain countries in Central America and South America showed an interest in acquiring aircraft which had just been withdrawn from service by the US Navy and the US Air Force. The will of the United States to promote democracy in these countries, pushed the American government to set up a military aid program, the Military Aid Sales [MAS], in order to provide planes and various materials which were then stored and available in large quantities. One such country, Honduras, showed keen interest in purchasing Corsair to replace its aging fleet. Several Corsairs including 124724 were delivered to Honduras.
The Honduran Corsairs remained in service for 13 years and 124724 saw combat again in the Football War (or Hundred Hours War) in 1969. It took part in ground attacks against the armed forces of El Salvador which had crossed the western border of Honduras. This war lasted just under 2 weeks, after which 124724 and the other FAH Corsairs were withdrawn from service, stored and replaced by F-86 Sabers in the early 1970s.
In 1979, Hollywood Wings Inc. acquired 124724. During its ferry flight from Honduras to the United States, it suffered a landing gear failure during a stopover, the pilot flying then jettisoned the additional tanks above the jungle and carried out a belly landing. The damage was minimal and only the propeller had to be replaced. With the help of British troops stationed there, 124724 was cleared again only two weeks later. He took off from Belize and completed his ferry flight, this time without incident, to his new base in Los Angeles, California. It flew there for 4 years, before being sold several times and landing in 1984 in Texas. In March 1986, Jean Salis bought 124724 and had it transported by ship to Le Havre, where it arrived on April 21, 1986. Today, 124724 is the last flying Corsair in France. In 2008, a major visit was started, on its release it will be repainted in its original night fighter colors during its participation in the Korean War.
Image: Jean-Marie Urlarcher