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.
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.