Wampus Cat The Backstory
“Biggest engine, least airframe” was the Grumman Aircraft Corporation’s motto for the F8F Bearcat. The plane serves as an example of evolving innovation— the hallmark of great aircraft companies. All the Grumman “cats” were built in response to the need for fighters that could stalk their prey by night. With the F8F, Grumman delivered an aircraft that was lighter and more maneuverable than the Hellcat and managed Naval carrier takeoffs and landings that the twin-engine Tigercat couldn’t handle. The Bearcat flew circles around the North American P-51 Mustangs, the Supermarine Spitfire, and even early model jets. That’s one reason our Wampus Cat saw most of its work in serious play—literally flying circles around pylons in the famed Reno Air Races and other races and demonstrations.
While the F8F just missed active duty in World War II, it was a plane that didn’t die. The Bearcat served the US Navy and US Marine Corps for training and front-line duty. It flew in the Korean War and played bomber and escort roles for France, Thailand, and Vietnam. Thrill-junkie pilots jumped at the chance to fly the Bearcat: A single-seat plane that was all engine and torque, the Bearcat demanded precision takeoffs and landings to avoid catching the propeller on the ground.