It was on this day in aviation history in 1942 that a pancake would fly
The V-173 during its first flight with Vought Chief Test Pilot Boone Guyton at the controls
The V-173 was designed by Charles H. Zimmerman who started designing radically different wing designs in the 1930s. After testing a large scale model (electrically powered and radio-controlled), designated the Vought V-162, the US Navy stepped in to finance further development. The V-173's first (and only) prototype was constructed largely of wood and canvas. It featured a fully symmetrical wing that also formed part of the fuselage. This proof-of-concept prototype was powered by two Continental A-80 engines (housed in the centre of the body) initially during F-4U Corsair propellers, Later these were replaced by purpose-built 3 bladed propellers. The landing gear comprised of a tall, fixed, main gear and a small tailwheel. This landing gear configuration gave the aircraft a 22° nose-high position on the ground. Obviously, aerodynamics were very important in the design, and every detail counted. For example, the propellers rotated in opposite directions to the wingtip vortexes in flight, these increased the efficiency of the wing. This greater efficiency allowed the aircraft to have a lower wing area, which made the aircraft more manoeuvrable and increased structural strength.
Two vertical fins with rudders provide yaw control while stabilisers and elevator/trim surfaces were mounted along the trailing edge of the wing, A total of 190 test flights would be made in 1942 and 1943, logging 131.8 flight hours, Besides Vought Chief Test Pilot Boone Guyton (who made the first flight) also Charles Lindbergh flew the aircraft. During one of the flights, an emergency landing on a beach had to be made, due to heavy braking the aircraft flipped on its back, sustain no damage at all, a testament to its construction!
In January of 1942, the US Navy requested the construction of two further prototypes, designated the VS-135. this would be the basis for a production version, the Vought X5u-1. An all-metal aircraft five times heavier than the V-173.
The final flight of the V-173 was made on the 31st of March 1947, the progress and development results of the V-173 would be used in the development of the Chance Vought XF5U. Specifications for the V-173;
Crew: One, pilot
Length: 26 ft 8 in (8.128 m)
Wingspan: 23 ft 4 in (7.1 m)
Height: 14 ft 9 in (4.51 m)
Wing area: 427 sq ft (44.2 m2)
Gross weight: 2,258 lb (1,024 kg)
Powerplant: 2 × Continental A-80 horizontally opposed, four-cylinder engines, 80 hp (60 kW) each each
Number built: 1
Maximum speed: 138 mph (222 km/h, 120 kn)
Climb time to 5,000 ft (1,500 m): 7 min