There’s officially another Grumman F8F Bearcat up in the air, and that’s the kind of great news we all need right now. The plane made its first post-restoration flight last weekend out of Chino, California, with legendary pilot Steve Hinton at the controls. It went off beautifully.
As we reported recently, the long-term restoration is of a Grumman Bearcat that crashed at Oshkosh 27 years ago. The first engine run since the crash was in late April. The goal of the flight, Hinton said, was to make things “really boring,” as all the hard work has been done, checked and checked, again and again. Hinton’s commentary about the flight is fantastic, too, by the way. Watch it all the way through.
The crash was at Oshkosh in 1993, when it lost power for pilot Elmer Ward as he was taking off in it from Wittman Regional. On the ensuing forced landing in a field, the Bearcat flipped on its back, but miraculously didn’t catch fire. Ward was seriously injured but survived to fly again. Ward died in 2007 at the age of 86.
The Grumman Bearcat is a marvel. A frontline fighter produced toward the end of World War II, it’s one of the fastest piston-powered planes ever. For power, it relies on the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 double-row radial engine, which produces 2,250 hp. The production variant, which this is restored as, is faster than 450 mph. Highly modified Bearcats, including Rare Bear, are even faster. That famous F8F has flown at nearly 530 mph, making it both beautiful and fast.