14 December, 2010

Profile 44 - Grumman F6F-? as flown by Lt. Harold Thune

While waiting on some information on exactly which of Harold Thune's F6F to do, I decided to do the quick pencil study above to get into the Hellcat vibe.   This one is a "-5" model - my notes are to contrast it with the -3 variant.

Anyway, the sketch above took me, maybe, at most...three minutes.  Just look - nothing to it!  No complex curves, just straight lines and the flat face of a warehouse boxer.  But, it also occurred to me that the features that made the Hellcat easy to sketch hinted at why the airplane was a brilliant business decision for Grumman and the U.S. Navy back in 1942.

If you're an airplane geek, the Hellcat legend is fairly well known.  It had the highest victory:loss ratio of any Naval fighter plane - 19:1.  According to pilots, the F6F was gentle to fly, well armored, powerfully armed and almost as nimble as its main adversary, the lithe Mitsubishi A6M "Zero." I sat in one and was impressed with the roominess of the cockpit and good visibility in spite of the high-back fuselage.

Back to those easy-to-draw points - in mass production, straight lines mean easier assembly, less complicated jig systems and rapidity of construction.  To that point, I read that of the 12,000+ Hellcats built, 11,000 were built in the last two years of production.  Grumman must have been pumping Hellcats out like water.   By the time the assembly line shut down, the Hellcat was just under $40,000 a piece, making it the cheapest of the major American fighters in WW2.

Today, Hellcats are scarce with only a handful or so flying.  The last I heard, one of those are worth about $2-3 million dollars.

The next post should show progress on Thune's specific airplane.