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Where Can You Go In An F-8? Not Far - Unless You Have A Tanker

Think all high-wing aircraft are slow? Check out the Vought F-8 Crusader.

The Crusader was an air-superiority fighter and photo reconnaissance aircraft used by the United States Navy between 1957 and 1976, with the Naval Reserve flying it as a photo-recon aircraft through 1987. Its first flight happened on March 25th, 1957 - 59 years ago this week.

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Crusader Landing Paul Gulliver / Flickr

What's special about this aircraft? A lot. When the US Navy requested a new air superiority carrier aircraft in 1952, they wanted something that could hit Mach 1.2 at 30,000', climb at 25,000 feet per minute, and land no faster than 100 miles an hour.

That's 87 knots - which might sound fast to you, but it's actually really slow. That's a little more than twice the stall speed of a Cessna 172.

Crusader - Formation Wikipedia

Vought's final aircraft hit 1.86 Mach at 36,000', climbed at 31,950 feet per minute, had a combat radius of 450 miles (tankers are nice, huh!) and held an assortment of weapons - including the AIM-9 Sidewinder and the AGM-12 Bullpup air-to-surface missile.

So, how did it get slow enough to land? It varied the angle of incidence. The front of the wing pivoted up at slow speeds, increasing the angle of attack and giving the pilot better visibility. Don't confuse this with an F-14's swing wing - the F-14's wing pivoted back and forth to change sweep. The Crusader's moved up and down.

Want to see the Crusader in action? YouTube doesn't have a lot. The airplane did fly between 1957 and 1986 - too bad GoPro wasn't around back then. But, you're in luck. Check out this awesome video of a F-8 landing - and porpoising - at an air show.

That gear is strong. And - the best time to porpoise is... at an air show.

I like tower's "oooie" at 1:05...

Famous History

One of the F-8's most famous roles happened in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. F-8s from VFP-62 and VFP-63 departed Key West, flew over Cuba to photograph missiles, and returned to Jacksonville, Florida. They ran those missions twice a day, and confirmed that the Soviet Union was setting up IRBMs in Cuba.

Crusader and Bear Wikipedia

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Now through Thursday, Dec 3rd, 11:59 PM PST. Learn more and get started today.

Aleks Udris

Aleks is a Boldmethod co-founder and technical director. He's worked in safety and operations in the airline industry, and was a flight instructor and course manager for the University of North Dakota. You can reach him at

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