Vertigo Studios Grumman F8F Bearcat
By Bill Beseler (21 February 2011)
It has often been said that the Grumman F8F Bearcat is the pinnacle of piston engine fighter design. The basic qualities for any fighter should include manueverability, power, reliability and the capability to outclimb its enemies. Grumman managed to put all of these ingredients into a blender and the end result was the Grumman F8F Bearcat.
Grumman was hoping to add on to their successful "cat" line of fighters. First Grumman found success with the F4F "Wildcat" and then designing the hero of the Marianas turkey shoot, the F6F "Hellcat". For their next design, Grumman set out to design an airplane that could top the Hellcat in every aspect of performance. Inspired by a 1943 study of the German Focke-Wulf 190 and test pilot Bob Hall's flight experience in a captured FW190, Leroy Grumman laid out the specifications for Design 58. What Design 58 was to become was the Grumman F8F "Bearcat".
No part of the FW 190 was copied but the design principals of the 190 are rooted strongly in the Bearcat's design. Centered around the highly reliable and powerful Pratt and Whitney R-2800 engine the Bearcat began to take shape. So reliable is the R-2800 that pilots that were flying P-47 Thunderbolts in Europe would sometimes have entire cylinders shot off, but the 2800 would keep chugging along bringing them home.
Also the Navy had a requirement that the new aircraft would be able to operate off of the fleet's smallest carrier. The Bearcat succeeded at filling this request and it also possessed folding wings to make more space on the flight deck or in the maintenence bay. Using everything they learned from the FW-190 and using their own design experience, the Bearcat was lighter, faster and could climb quicker then its famous older brother, the Hellcat.
In the end, the Bearcat came along too late to see action in World War II but without a doubt Grumman had built themselves a winner. In 1946 the Bearcat set a time to climb record to 10,000 feet in just 94 seconds after a ground roll of just 115 feet! Also in 1946 the U.S. Navy Blue Angels switched from the F6F Hellcat to the Bearcat because of its superior manueverability.
Only 1266 Bearcats were made and presently there are only 11 'cats still flying. Those that are still flying are in private collections and are lovingly cared for. The most famous Bearcat can be found turning around the pylons at the Reno National Air Races every September. "Rare Bear" is owned by Rod Lewis and was previously owned by Lyle Shelton. This Bearcat however sports a modified Wright R-3350 making over 4500 horsepower and has numerous aerodynamic advancements.
When I saw that Vertigo studios had developed a Grumman F8F Bearcat I was very delighted. I've always thought the Bearcat was an intriguing design, with its stubby fuselage and proud stance. In this review I will share my thoughts on the latest release from Vertigo Studios, the Grumman F8F Bearcat.
Installation was straightforward just like everything else you can find in the FS Pilot Shop. It is great that in the package there is an auto-install which seems to be the norm in payware aircraft and it certainly makes things easy with not having to mess with files and folders.
The exterior model is superb. When zooming in the panel lines are expertly crafted and all the rivets have the correct bump look to them. All the hinges are correct and the glass canopy has a shine that is expertly crafted. It is very easy for me to say this but the exterior model lives up to Vertigo Studios reputation as being one of the up and coming warbird modellers.
Also included in this package are six different liveries, everything from a Blue Angels paint scheme to a regular US Navy scheme. This is a nice touch because I find it odd that some developers will only put a few paint schemes in their packages.
A lot of pilots who have flown the Bearcat in real life have said that it has one of the smallest cockpits around and with Vertigo Studios representation of the Bearcat I can see why real world pilots hold that sentiment. The instrument panel has a good layout and is accurate to the pictures I have seen of the real world aircraft.
One thing I would reccomend is TrackIR when flying this aircraft because there are switches and even some gauges that are hard to see if you are flying using a hat switch or something other than TrackIR. This is not a fault of Vertigo Studios but is very realistic as to how the actual airplane is. Once again, it is a very small cockpit!
It is easy to tell that Vertigo Studios was going for the vintage look of something that was being used in the late 40's. You won't find modern radios or anything fancy in this cockpit but you will find a cockpit that is meant for combat. All in all the textures and modeling of the cockpit are very well done and nicely put together.
The sound set on this model is very good. The noises are very accurate to how a real life Pratt and Whitney R-2800 sounds. From the interior noises to the way the engine sounds when not in the airplane, you will not be disappointed in getting that deep rumble and clatter of a big radial engine. The only thing I would have liked to have seen a little better is the transition from initial start up to settling into an idle. You can definitely tell there is a transition in the sound during that sequence.
If this model is accurate to how the real life Bearcat flies then it is easy to see why many pilots have dubbed this as the best piston engine fighter they have ever flown. For one, it climbs like a homesick angel. With 2000 horsepower swinging a 12 foot 4 inch Aeroproducts propellor it is not hard to imagine why it is easy to climb at over 3000 feet per minute.
One thing that caught my attention was how difficult it is to taxi this aircraft. You basically steer with differential braking and have hardly any rudder authority to force the tailwheel. This is one thing I've tried to find out about the Bearcat but could not find an answer as to how the real Bearcat taxis.
The ailerons are light and responsive and it's easy to forget that you are flying a bigger style fighter. No wonder the Blue Angels decided to use this as their mount from 1946 to 1949! The elevator and rudder are nicely harmonized with the ailerons and there are no real big quirks when flying the Bearcat.
Once again the idea of putting the biggest engine within reason on the smallest airframe won out again on this design and really if you were developing a fighter wouldn't you do the same? It is fast but it is also very docile when slowed down which is definitely a quality you would want if you were operating off of an aircraft carrier.
This model is very well rendered and from all the research I have done regarding the real world Bearcats flight characteristics I have to say that this representation is spot on. Everything from the roll rate to the slow speed characteristics, Vertigo Studios has gotten this on the money.
Things I liked:
- Value, for 28 dollars the price is not to high for a high quality payware add-on like this.
- Detail in the model, the amount of detail is really remarkable.
- Accuracy of the cockpit, it's not too roomy in there and this model gives off that characteristic.
- Flying qualities are very good and very docile as to what I've read about the real life Bearcat.
- Variation in the paint schemes, they even included a Blue Angels livery!
Things that could have been better:
- The sound set, even though the actual sounds are very good and believable, the blending of sounds could be a little better.
- Taxiing the airplane is somewhat difficult but then again it could be this way in the real world.
This is a very good representation of one of the last piston engine fighters ever made. Although it was designed too late to see action one doesn't have to imagine how effective it would have been had it been designed a few years earlier.
When someone flies the Bearcat for the first time they seemingly leave that first flight with a huge soft spot for the F8F, it is just that great of an airplane. Even Neil Armstrong is a huge fan of the F8F, when asked about his favorite airplane to fly his immediate answer was the F8F Bearcat and now you can also see why he holds this sentiment about the last of the piston engine Grumman Cats.
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