The VE-7 made history by being the first airplane to take off from the Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the converted coal ship U.S.S Langley. On October 17, 1922, LCdr. Virgil C. (Squash) Griffin made the first launch at the controls of the nimble fighter that had originally been designed as a training plane. The launching used a unique technique, described as follows by RADM Tate, then a junior naval aviator:
“We were operating just north of the Tongue of the Shoe, seaward of the main channel from Norfolk, Va. A trough about 6 feet long, set up on sawhorses was rigged at the aft end of the flight deck. When the tail skid of the VE-7 used in the test was placed in the trough, she was in the flight attitude.
We had no brakes, so the plane was held down on the deck by a wire with a bomb release at the end. This was attached to a ring in the landing gear. ‘Squash’ Griffin climbed in, turned up the Hispano Suiza engine to its full 180 hp and gave the ‘go’ signal. The bomb release was snapped and the Vought rolled down the deck. Almost before it reached the deck-center elevator it was airborne. Thus, the first takeoff from a U.S. carrier.”
Other reminiscences of the VE-7 included the following from RADM Jackson R. Tate (Ret)
“The Naval Aviation News review of the VE-7SF was in some slight error. The VE-7 was not an advanced trainer – trainer for what? It was the hottest thing we had. The plane was a beautiful thing to fly. The Gottingen modified wing foil and area made it both fast and a good performer at altitude. It was hot at acrobatics in its day few planes got on its tail. We literally made thousands of landings with the VE-7.”
“I shifted from a Langley experimental pilot to the first carrier fighter squadron, VF-2, with the VE-7FS planes. This Vought-equipped squadron developed the first carrier squadron tactics including squadron landing circle and approach. It was a hot outfit.”
And so began Vought’s long history with the U.S. Navy
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