Kit No. 33
Decals: One version – U.S. Navy
Comments: Engraved panel lines; Decals by Propagteam; First American vertical take-off fixed wing aircraft
On November 2, 1954, Convair’s XFY-1 took its first flight, making history by completing the first vertical take-off of a fixed wing aircraft in the United States, followed by a transition to horizontal flight and eventual landing in vertical mode. The origin of the “Pogo Plane,” so named for its vertical take-off and landing characteristics which were reminescent of the pogo stick, a popular child’s toy of the 1950’s, dates back to 1949. Following the detonation of an atomic bomb by the Soviet Union that year, the U.S. Navy became concerned about the vulnerability of both its aircraft carriers and naval air stations. The introduction of strategic nuclear weapons dictated a new approach to protecting the nation’s more important military assets.
By 1951, the Navy had developed a technical specification calling for an aircraft capable of taking off while positioned vertically on its stabilizing empennage (wings and tail surfaces), also called “tail sitting” — transitioning to traditional horizontal flight, and landing vertically. In 1952, the Navy ordered both Convair and Lockheed to build prototypes. Lockheed’s XFV-1 Salmon flew first, with the help of a special undercarriage as a traditional airplane, but the Convair’s XFY-1 Pogo met the required specification by completing a true vertical take-off.
Advanced testing of the Pogo’s XT-40-A-6 turboprop engine with its two counter-rotating propellers, began in March 1954 inside a former 195-foot-high airship hangar at Moffett Field, California. After several successful hangar tests, the first outdoor take-off occured on September 2, 1954, and the Pogo attained a height of 39 feet and landed safely. A second vertical take-off reached a height of 147 feet, after which the XFY-1 was returned to San Diego for further testing under factory conditions. With its first vertical take-off and transition to horizontal flight on November 2nd, the XFY-1 became the first VTOL (Vertical Take-Off or Landing) aircraft. Intense testing continued until the Pogo had accumulated 43 hours of flight. The prototypes were flown without armament, but there were plans to fit the Pogo with 20mm gun pods at or near its wingtips, outside the arc of the propellers, and to add the capability for it to carry unguided high velocity aircraft rockets (HVAR) similar to those used by Navy fighters during World War II.
Although the XFY-1 met all Navy specifications, including suitability for operations from restricted surfaces like the decks of Navy destroyers, it required a high degree of both piloting skill and pre-flight preparation. This combined with a mid-1950’s shift in Navy doctrine away from the conditions which gave rise to the need for the Pogo, leading to the introduction of an entirely new breed of jet aircraft like the Grumman F9F Cougar and the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, resulted in the XFY-1 development program being cancelled.
Although it was never put into production, the Pogo pioneered VTOL design and remains an important technological development as well as a critical part of aviation history. Three XFY-1 Pogo prototypes were built, with two being scrapped after cancellation of the program. The lone surviving Pogo, bearing tail number 138649, is on display at the Naval Air Station at Norfolk, Virginia.
Wingspan: 8.43 meters / 27.65 feet
Length: 10.64 meters / 34.9 feet (without undercarriage)
Height (span of empennage): 7.23 meters / 23 feet
Maximum speed at 15,000 feet (4,573 meters): 606 mph / 976 kph
KP’s kit of the U.S. Navy’s prototype VTOL fighter is injection molded in grey and consists of 45 parts, two of which are clear plastic. It bears engraved panel lines and individually mounted blades for the contra-rotating propellers, but other than that is not especially detailed. The cockpit features raised detail on the instrument panel and a multi-part seat, but is otherwise very basic. As was the case with the actual aircraft, there are no under wing stores, since the type never entered production. The decals are by Propagteam; they have excellent color, are perfectly in register and include two examples of the Convair logo. There is a two-part canopy, so it may be possible to depict the finished kit with the canopy open. This kit provides a smaller alternative to the 1/48 Lindberg kit, with perhaps slightly better tooling.
Recommended for the modeler who wants an interesting, advanced design prototype from the Cold War era.