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[ Image Only ] Title: Format: Date: Description: 1990.130.

001 jpeg 20/07/2010 Right Side View

990.130.001] Aircraft - 'F3F-2 Aircraft, Bureau Number 0976'

F3F-2 Aircraft, Bureau Number 0976

Accession Number Accession Date Creator Date Created Object Desciption

1990.130.001 04/04/1990 Creator 1937 The museum's F3F-2 was assigned to the Marine Corps at Quantico, Virginia, on 21 December 1937. Serving briefly with Aircraft One (later Marine Fighting Squadron (VMF) 1), the it soon made its way westward, joining VMF-2 at Naval Air Station (NAS) San Diego on 17 January 1938. Filling the ranks of this squadron were men destined for greatness in World War II, including Medal of Honor recipients Henry T. Elrod and Bob Galer. The museum's aircraft spent over two years with this squadron, including their stint performing flying sequences for the movie Flight Command (though it isn't known whether the aircraft flew for the cameras). Eventually, it wore the numbers 2-MF-16 and was assigned to a young lieutenant named Milo Haines. As was the case while operating aboard ship, rare was it that pilots flew their assigned aircraft and such was the case on 29 August 1940, when 1st Lieutenant Bob Galer took the controls of the aircraft to conduct carrier qualification on board Saratoga (CV 3) off the coast of California. On approach for one landing he switched fuel tanks only to find that his engine quit, leaving him no choice but to ditch the aircraft. He survived the water landing and was pulled from the water, but the aircraft sank to the depths of the Pacific. In June 1989 Captain Ed McKellar, USN (Ret.), then the director of the San Diego Aerospace Museum, called National Museum of Naval Aviation Director, Captain Bob Rasmussen, USN (Ret.), to inform him that at that moment he was looking at a video of a newly discovered Grumman F3F, the very aircraft Galer had ditched nearly half a century earlier, which the Navy deep submergence vehicle Turtle had unintentionally happened upon while searching for another crashed aircraft off the coast of Del Mar, California "It's for real", he insisted, "and it is pretty much intact in good shape. There is only one little problem and that is the 1,800 of so feet of salt water that sits on top of the aircraft." Nine months pass with only dead ends in the museum's efforts to come up with the wherewithal to go after this prize. Then a call comes from Vice Admiral Jack Fetterman, Commander Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet offering the museum the opportunity to tag on to the recovery operation of a UH-1 that had crashed off San Diego. The museum gathered the funds necessary to support its end of the operation and made plans with the Navy's Superintendent of Salvage. USNS Naragansett set sail from North Island on 5 April 1990, and a short time later she was over the reported crash site with the ROV in the water searching for the rare bird. The Superintendent of Salvage point man for the operation, Lee Wolford, knew exactly where the F3F was reported to be, yet it was not there! However, a little debris and an 800-foot trench along the bottom coupled with a soft sonar contact soon led the searchers to the prize. To their consternation what was originally a near pristine aircraft was now a tangled mass of wreckage. The fuselage, less the firewall forward, was pretty much intact as were the port wings and empennage, but the starboard wings were a mess. What happened was anyone's guess. The carefully devised plans to lift a mostly undamaged and intact upright aircraft were now unusable and a quick scramble for a new operations plan led us to trying to hook on to the left main landing gear (the only hard point accessible)as the sole lifting point and trust that Grumman Iron Works was true to its name when it built the F3F. Creator Role

Manufacturer

After four hours and some intricate maneuvers by the salvage team, they hooked up to the aircraft and a strain was put on the lift. A few minutes later they knew they had something substantial on the hook, but how much of the aircraft it exactly was remained a mystery, at least for a while. A little over an hour of anxiety later flood lights illuminated the F3F, crushed wings and all, just barely submerged and dangling by that one fragile looking landing gear. Minutes later she was aboard. Everything was there except the firewall forward, some bits and pieces of the starboard wing, tail feathers and canopy, all of which were badly damaged. Soon, the ship was underway for North Island, and she did not arrive until the darkness of early morning. Even at that hour, the ship and her rare cargo had a welcoming committee, and a very special one at that in the person of Bob Galer, the pilot who had flown the F3F into the drink nearly fifty years earlier. Hours later the aircraft was off loaded and already being washed and stabilized at Naval Aviation Depot North Island, where ironically it had undergone overhaul fifty-one years earlier. Once this was completed, it was delivered to the San Diego Aerospace Museum for restoration. Just short of three years later the meticulously restored F3F was delivered (by the Blue Angels Fat Albert) to the museum, a very happy ending to a complex operation that added a prime example of naval aviation to the museum's collection. It is the only original F3F, not remanufactured from the ground up, that you will find anywhere today. Postscript: When Ed McKellar told Bob Galer that the plane that he put into the drink had been located, Bob asked, "Which one?" Apparently he had ditched more than one (he actually was shot down four times), but it did not seem to affect his career. He went on to shoot down 13 Japanese aircraft, receive the Medal of Honor for heroism at Guadalcanal, and retire as a brigadier general in the Marine Corps. He was blamed for the crash because he allegedly switched to a dry tank, but this also was not career shattering. Ironically, when the San Diego Aerospace Museum restoration team disassembled the aircraft they discovered that 1st Lt Galer had selected the correct tank after all, but because of faulty installation of the valve, the selector handle did not align with the indicated tank. Thus concluded what may be the longest resolution of an aircraft accident on Navy record. Notes Destined to be the last biplane fighter operated in front-line service by the U.S. Navy, the F3F rolled out of the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation factory beginning in 1935. The company's successor to the F2F, which had stability problems and a nagging tendency to spin, the F3F was typical of the modest prewar aircraft procurement of the U.S. Navy with only 169 production aircraft produced in four years, a number that belied the lasting impact the F3F had on naval aviation in the critical years leading up to World War II. Its introduction to fleet service coincided with the beginning of the Naval Aviation Cadet program, which brought scores of young men into the ranks of naval aviation, those joining U.S. Naval Academy graduates assigned to fleet fighter squadrons and thus F3F cockpits destined to make lasting impacts in combat during the early-1940s. In addition, following retirement from fleet service in May 1941, surviving F3Fs were largely assigned as advanced trainers at Naval Air Station (NAS) Miami, Florida, the breeding ground for carrier fighter pilots, thus continuing to provide the air-to-air combat foundations for many a wartime naval aviator. Specifications for the F3F-2 Manufacturer: Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation Dimensions: Length: 24 ft., 6 in.; Height: 11 ft., 1 in.; Wingspan: 34 ft., 6 in. Weights: Empty: 3,076 lb.; Gross: 4,655 lb. Power plant: One 750 hp Wright R-1820-F engine Performance: Maximum Speed: 207 M.P.H.; Service Ceiling: 22,400 ft.; Range: 365 miles Armament: Two fixed forward-firing .30-in. guns

Crew: Pilot Multimedia

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Cockpit of F3F-2 jpeg 2008 View of the fuselage area around the cockpit of the F3F-2 on display in the museum.

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Instrument Panel of F3F-2 jpeg 2008 Instrument panel of the F3F-2 on display in the museum.

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Tail View of F3F-2 jpeg 2008 Port three-quarter aft view of F3F-2 on display.

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Overhead View of F3F-2 jpeg 2008 Overhead view showing the engine and cowling of the museum's F3F-2.

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Side View of F3F-2 on Display jpeg 2008 Starboard side view of the museum's F3F-2 on display.

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