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This dubious honorific evolved from certain hair-raising (OK--to some extent harebrained) incidents that occurred during the US Navy's first efforts to operate supersonic jet fighter aircraft from modified WWII small deck aircraft carriers.  


Chance Vought Aircraft's F8U-1 "CRUSADER" stepped out of the box in 1955 and exceeded Mach 1 on its maiden flight at Edwards Air Force Base. In 1956 the CRUSADER grabbed the Navy's first "THOMPSON TROPHY" for a run over the 15-kilometer China Lake course at an average speed in excess of 1000 MPH-a new national and world speed record. The CRUSADER won the Collier Trophy for "the greatest achievement in aviation in America…(the) concept, design and development of the first carrier-based fighter capable of speeds exceeding 1,000 mph." It was also the first aircraft to span the nation at supersonic speed (coast to coast in 3 hours and 28 minutes), and it won the Bureau of Aeronautics first Certificate of Merit. In other words, the CRUSADER was a quantum leap forward in aviation;


IT WAS HOT !!


In retrospect I still find it hard to believe that this evolution occurred just over 50 years after Kitty Hawk and only 30 years after Lindbergh's pioneering flight in 1927.


In early 1957 the CRUSADER became operational-now came the real test. Our squadron, VF154 was the first Pacific Fleet fighter squadron to receive the revolutionary new Navy jet.   VF 154 was assigned to the doughty USS HANCOCK. "HANNA" had been a relatively small "ESSEX Class" straight deck attack carrier. As such she was not capable of accommodating the big fast new jet aircraft. However, when modified as a "27 CHARLIE", HANNA just barely made the cut . This was achieved by adding three essential elements developed earlier by the British (thank God). Without these modifications there really was no way to combine the forthcoming generations of aircraft with the carrier.


The modifications were an Angled Deck built onto the port (left) side of the carrier (this allowed the huge slow acceleration jets to touch down on the ship at full power and if necessary to immediately take off again); the Mirror Landing System (a long distance optical guidance system that provided the pilot with the visual altitude reference essential for carrier landings day or night); and a Steam Catapult (a steam piston driven mechanism capable of shooting a 20 ton aircraft from a dead stop down a track of some 70 yards and off the bow of the carrier at flying speed-about 150 miles per hour. And what a ride it was!)




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