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Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation Retirees Finish Vought V-173 “Flying Pancake” Following 8-Year Restoration Effort

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Flying Pancake

Vought V-173 "Flying Pancake" (Jay Miller photo).

On February 10, 2012, retired Vought employees officially rolled out the one-of-a-kind Vought V-173 Flying Pancake, following eight years of painstaking restoration work.  The Flying Pancake dates to World War II when the Chance Vought Division of the United Aircraft Corporation built and flew the airplane to test Charles H. Zimmerman’s theories about extremely low-aspect ratio wing design that allowed an aircraft to fly at very slow speeds.  Among the airplane’s novel features are the two large wooden prop-rotors powered by a pair of 80 HP Continental A-80 engines.  More of the history and additional technical details about the Flying Pancake are available in the curatorial web essay.

Vought retirees moved the aircraft to Dallas, Texas, in 2004 for restoration.  Early next month, the retirees will move the Flying Pancake to the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field near Dallas and the museum will unveil the airplane to visitors on April 15.  The National Air and Space Museum accepted the aircraft from the U. S. Navy Bureau of Weapons in September 1960 because the design approach to low-speed flight represented by the Flying Pancake was so unusual.  The aircraft will remain on loan from our Museum to the Frontiers of Flight Museum for at least ten years.  It is one of almost 30 Museum aircraft on loan throughout the United States.


Flying Pancake

To maintain wing lift at the slowest speed possible, Vought mounted large prop-rotors at the wing tips, and designed the left prop-rotor to turn counter-clockwise (as viewed by the pilot) and the right prop-rotor to turn clockwise (Jay Miller photo).



Vought V-173 "Flying Pancake" Cockpit (Jay Miller photo).

Vought retirees carefully cleaned the cockpit, stuffed a new seat cushion with the kapok that had spilled from the original, and replaced three missing instruments but otherwise, they left the area untouched.  The retirees carefully preserved original wear marks seen on the trim wheel left of the seat, the two rudder pedals shaped like stirrups, and various struts and braces.  Vought test pilots Boone Guyton and Richard Burroughs, transatlantic flyer Charles A. Lindbergh, and other pilots made these marks while test-flying the V-173 during test flights totaling 131 hours in the air.


Russ Lee is a curator in the Aeronautics Division of the National Air and Space Museum.

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22 thoughts on “Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation Retirees Finish Vought V-173 “Flying Pancake” Following 8-Year Restoration Effort

  1. Pingback: Vought Flying Pancake -

  2. Wow; I’ve been eagerly awaiting the restoration of this unique plane for years. They did an awesome job restoring the plane. I was hoping this aircraft would be on display at Udvar-Hazy as I don’t have any current plans on visiting Dallas. Guess I’ll have to wait a few years. Glad to see it restored for display though.

  3. Steve, the airplane is complete and intact in every way except for fuel, engine oil, and battery but note that it is NASM policy never to fly the aircraft in our collections.

    Rich, I hope sometime you can make it to Dallas to see the “Flying Pancake” at the Frontiers of Flight Museum. It is a wonderful venue in which to exhibit this interesting aircraft.

  4. My father-in-law, Weldon George, now 95 and alive and well was a Chase Vought test pilot during the testing of the Flying Pancake. Although he did not personally fly the aircraft he knew all the pilots who did. He is a wonderful story teller, lives in Texas and Lord willing I will have him visit after April 15th.

  5. Very happy to see this rolled out. For years, I thought the original had been completely destroyed. Glad I was wrong.

  6. I worked at Vought Aircraft in Dallas for 20 years and was able to see the V117 when it came in.It was in pretty bad shape.All the fabric was split and falling off.As far as I know. There were 3 XF5U that were built late during the war.By the time they were complete the war ended and the defense department ordered that they all be destroyed because there was no longer a need for them.They never left the ground.What a waste of research and technology that I’m sure they wished they would have saved in hind sight.

  7. The XF5U project was the project created by Charles H. Zimmerman to build a navy fighter with a low wing aspect ratio, this project was called the ‘Flying Flapjack’ the V-173 in this article was built as part of this project and that itself was nick named the ‘Flying Pancake’ this was a proof of concept aircraft, the XF5U ‘Flying Flapjack’ was the actual project destined to become a fighter – none of these survive today.

  8. Congratulations to all the diligent renovators. Your time, effort, and patience has produced another reawakened historic bird from our past. Thank you!

  9. Pingback: design + build Vought V-173 recreation

  10. Pingback: Urban GhostsRetro Fails: 10 Real Flying Saucers that Never Really Lifted Off - Urban Ghosts

  11. I think that is really cool. It looks like they did an excellent job.

    It would be cool to see a flying replica of that plane.

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