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World War Two: Goodyear FG-1D Corsair

The development of the Corsair began in 1938, and the prototype first flew in May 1940. The goal of the design was to fit the largest possible engine available at the time, into the smallest possible airframe, and to produce a high performance aircraft carrier-based fighter.


The Pratt and Whitney XR-2800 Double Wasp engine selected for the aircraft required a large diameter propeller, which in turn would require very long landing gear units. As the aircraft was to be used in carrier operations, this was not suitable, as landings would frequently be heavy, and thus could easily damage the landing gear. To avoid this, the highly characteristic 'invert gull wing' was developed for the aircraft, which kept the prop away from the ground, and allowed the landing gear to be as short as possible.

CorsairIn June 1942 the first production batch of Corsairs were delivered to the US Navy, who almost immediately deemed the aircraft unsuitable for carrier operations. Thus it was primarily land based units, including those of the US Marines, who first made use of the type. The Marine Corps VMF-124 squadron was the first operational unit to take the Corsair into action, at Guadalcanal in February 1943.

By April 1943 the now significantly modified aircraft was in operation with the US Navy, and from June that year a considerable number of Corsairs saw service with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm as well. The RNZAF were suppled with 400 Corsairs in 1944, and these replaced the service's P-40 Kittyhawks in the Pacific.

With a top speed of over 670kph, and a range of over 1500km the Corsair was well suited for operations in the Pacific Theatre, and is generally regarded as one of the most outstanding carrier fighters of WW2. In addition to its eight .5 inch machine guns, could also carry two 1000lb bombs, or eight five inch rockets, and so was often used in a close-support role. From April 1944 the type was credited with over 2140 victories against Japanese aircraft, for the loss of only 189 Corsairs.

CorsairEventually over 12,500 examples of the Corsair were built between 1942 and 1952.

This aircraft is the Goodyear built FG-1D Corsair NZ5648, which is the only remaining airworthy Corsair of the 400 delivered to the RNZAF during the Second World War. This aircraft was saved from the (in)famous Rukuhia scrap yard in the late 1950's, and by 1966 had been restored to a taxiable condition. In this state it was displayed at the opening of the Hamilton Airport in 1966. Over the next 16 years it spent time at MOTAT in Auckland, and then was sold to the USA, where it was restored to an airworthy condition and flew once more in 1982.

After spending some twelve years based in the UK with the Old Flying Machine Company, the aircraft returned to New Zealand in 2004, and is now based at Hood Aerodrome in Masterton, with the Old Stick And Rudder Company.


The Corsair being superbly displayed at an airshow event in New Zealand by Keith Skilling.



Onboard pilot's view during a display.

An earlier airshow display.

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