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We Love Crusaders


Updated July 9, 2023

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    Updated 3/9/18

Click Photo to enlarge

Click here to see a large detail of Mad's RF-8G BuNo 146897from VFP-63's 1971 Midway detachment. Lt. Cdr. Scott Ruby came up with the color scheme. It was lost in an operational accident 6/9/81 aboard the USS Independence (VFP-63 Det 4--pilot Lt j.g. R. Wright ejected.)

Art Courtesy Mads Bangs°

About the artist: Mads is from Denmark and offers his art for sale. He will custom make his rendition to your specifications. For more information on his art: Click to Email him: email Mads Bangs°

"You can take the boy out of the Crusader
But you can't take the Crusader out of the boy." --anonymous

"I flew Vigi's and A-4's as well, all fun. But I don't think there's a pilot alive
who flew F-8's who won't say that was the most fun to fly.
I considered it the "Harley Davidson" of airplanes."
John "Lightnin" Davison VFP-63

"I'd make a deal with the Devil if I could just go back and fly either one
[RF-4C & RF-8G] again for just a little while!"
Jim "Mugs" Morgan Col USAF Ret.

"The RF8A was a marvelous machine and a good friend for many years."
J.J. Olsen, Cdr USN (Ret)

"Two of the best fighter's in my log book had wings that moved, one up and down, one forward and aft. -- Jerry Merritt

Click photo to enlarge

Click photo to enlarge. Art by: StÚphan GARNAUD

Drawing of a Crusader RF-8A Det.65 on USS Enterprise 02/08/1964 - 10/03/1964 Med, World Cruise "Operation Sea Orbit".

    Restoration of VFP-62 RF-8 Crusaders

    The History and Restoration of RF8 Bureau Number 145645

  • Project Crusader: The Story of RF-8 BuNo 145645:-Marines, VFP-62, VFP-63, Davis Monthan (Bone Yard) & exhibit at Battleship Park, Mobile AL

  • National Naval Aviation Museum RF-8G Bureau Number 145609

    Restored with VFP-62 Colors
    Photo courtesy of Ted Hurst

  • (2/1/16)

    CLICK TO SEE: Project Save Crusader: The Story of RF-8 BuNo 145609:-Marines, VFP-62, VFP-63, VMCJ-3, VMJ-4, Davis Monthan (Bone Yard) & exhibit at National Naval Aviation Museum Pensacola, Florida

"It means a lot to this old sailor to see the Chance Vaught Reconnaissance Crusader receive such recognition.
She was indeed a truly remarkable aircraft." --James A. Bremner PHC USN(ret) VFP-63

    Other Photo Crusaders Being Restored
    Or in Museums

  • (1/20/15):Have been working with the Lexington Museum in Corpus. They have agreed to go for an RF8 for display on the boat. They will soon be putting in an official request for the loan of a bird with the powers to be in Pensacola. Assuming it will be approved, I will be meeting with Rusty - the curator of the museum - at D-M, probably some time in March, to pick a bird. Once we have a bird on deck, I will be leading a fund raising effort to help off-set the cost of getting it to Corpus. The most likely date is 21 March, coincides with my trip to Mariner Spring Training.

    Scott Ruby (VFP-63 pilot)

  • Re-restoration of RF-8 Bu. No. 146898

  • Photo Courtesy Don Kuehl
    Click on photos to enlarge

    RF-8 (BuNo 146898) that had been damaged by hurricane Katrina at Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, Alabama was returned to the National Museum of Naval Aviation (NMNA) in Pensacola, Florida and was being considered for use as a ground target at Egland AFB. This particular airplane was part of the initial contingent of aircraft to fly over Laos in 1964 with VFP-63. In addition to multiple carrier cruises with the Navy, it also served with Marine squadron VMJ-4 at Navy Dallas from 1969-1971.

    [The aircraft went through LTV and received the P-420 engine and some other avionics updates and then continued in service with VFP-306 until September of 1984 when I delivered the plane to the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. With the P-420 engine the plane would go supersonic in basic engine thrust in straight and level flight.

    This plane will arrive in Fort Worth TX on the 29 Dec. '08. It has been loaned to the the Veterans Memorial Air Park at Meacham International Airport. The group will restore 146898 and repair the damage from the storm that hit battleship park in Mobil AL. --Gary Riese]

    RF-8 #146898 was built in 1960. This Photo Crusader served with Navy squadrons VCP-63, VFP-63, VFP-306 and Marine squadron VMJ-4. It made cruises aboard the USS Lexington, Hancock, Ranger and possibly others.

  • Update 2/19/13: Progress on 898 is slow. Other projects for one reason or another have taken precedence but he airplane is near and dear to us all. The folks at the Vought Heritage group gave us a leg up on the restoration and we are planning to put some of the pieces back together. One of our projects was laying a pad for a place to store and work on aircraft. We have made lots of progress the last few months so 898 may be moving up the list before long.

    The park is in negotiations for a RF-8 simulator in a 40-foot trailer. Vought Retirees had finished repairing the aft section and it was returned to Fort Worth. --Jim Hodgson

    Webmaster: see the simulator on this page. Use page navigation button for quick access

    The Restoration of RF-8 146858

  • (2/13/13)Here is a couple more pictures of the next RF-8 (146858) that is to be restored. I am working with Pete Clayton to get this done. If everything goes well, it will be put on display on the Hornet in Alameda. Hopefully, it will be moved there on or about December 2012. Will eventually start a fund raising effort to get it done. Got a quote from a trucking company of $3,200 - using two trucks - to move the birdfrom Miramar to Alameda. Only covers travelling expenses. Actual labor costs are donated to the effort. This is the same company that moved the Merced bird from Edwards to Merced. Doing this out of their appreciation for the military. A good company.---Scott Ruby, VFP-63 pilot

    Update (Oct 9, 2012): We are making steady progress on 146858. In August and September we concentrated on the fuselage. Most of the loose and damaged paint is gone. There is virtually no corrosion. This is a rock solid aircraft. Both stabs and both outer wing panels have been recovered from UCSD and are in storage.

    • Her aircraft history card shows she was aboard FDR in late 1969 thru mid-1970. Then went to Det 1 aboard HANCOCK from 1971 thru 1975 - making four cruises in CV-19; then Det 2 aboard JFK in 1978; then Det 4 aboard AMERICA in 1979; then Det 1 on KITTY HAWK in 1981

    • went to Davis-Monthan in May 1982 with 5975 flight hours and 513 arrested landings. Apparently was stricken in Dec 1985.

    Anyone know why it was taken out of service on KITTY HAWK?

    Pete Clayton (peteclayton455@aol.com --- modern day Gator fixer)
    RANGER CHENG 1989-1992

    [Webmaster: Besides VFP-63, this RF-8 served with VMCJ-3 & VC-7]

  • Restoration of the First Crusader

    Vought (XF-8A) XF8U-1 Bu No 138899

  • (1/23/12) EXTERNAL LINK: Information on The First Crusader Being restored at the Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA. Contributed by Scott Ruby, VFP-63

  • [Update May 18] EXTERNAL LINK to the Boeing Museum of Flight Restoration Facility at Paine Field in Everett, WA, where: The very first Crusader (XF8U-1) is undergoing restoration - courtesy Dave Johnson, F8 pilot

  • UPDATE (1/20/15)We're nearing the completion of the project at Paine Field and the XF8U-1 is slotted to go to the Museum of Flight's covered air park after its completion. The XF8U-1 Crusader has been on display at one event so far the "Vintage Aircraft Weekend Event" at John Sessions' Historic Flight Museum and in conjunction with Paul Allen's Flying Heritage Museum. The XF8U-1 also made the centerfold of the Aloft Magazine.

    Craig C Wall, USAF retired

  • Update (11/11/13): I'm now a full time employee at the MOF restoration center and I'm full time on the XF8U-1! Finally I'm able to give her 100% full attention! It was on hold because I had other projects going and could only spend my spare time on BUNO 899. The Main Museum wants her, who wouldn't?! So now it's a priority and I'm getting help as well as a budget!

    I will keep you up to date on all the progress. It will be accurately restored to its original configuration on its maiden flight!

    Please keep all the Crusader guys informed as well I appreciate it. They deserve to see #1 in all her glory! The Last of the Gunfighting Mig Masters will never die!!!

    [Webmaster: Here is a contact email to show your appreciation: Craig Wall: USAF retired, Museum of flight structural and design engineer ---Contributed by Dave Johnson]

  • (10/8/16)YOUTUBE 5-Minute high-quality video of First Crusader XF8U-1 BuNo 138899 Home at Museum of Flight Seattle, WA--Restored First Crusader moved to it's final home.

  • Restoration RF-8G 146860 at Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum

  • VFP-206 RF-8G Bu No 146860: The last official RF-8G flight was flown by Dave Strong on 30 March, 1987, from Andrews out to Dulles where it would be inducted into the Museum which had not even been built yet---the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Air & Space museum at Dulles Int'l in Chantilly, VA has the RF-8G Crusader on display there today.

    This RF-8G was the last operational Navy Crusader . Delivered as an F8U-1P, Served with the US Marine Corps in Asia and flew over 400 combat sorties.

    Squadrons flown by: VMCJ-3, VC-7, and VFP-206.

  • (8/13/16) Greg Engler (VFP-62 AT2) sends us a great Video with Music link: Smithsonian Udvar Hazy RF-8G Exhibit

  • (5/2/11):
  • The Restoration of RF-8G Bu. No. 145607 at Castle Air Museum

    RF-8G 145607 was moved by road from Edwards AFB to the restoration hangar at Castle Air Museum (CAM), Atwater, CA. A small volunteer crew from the museum dismantled it. The airplane was complete except for the cameras and has very little visible corrosion. The restorers had to look for three new tires as they were completely shot. Click to see: Moving RF-8G to CAM -Contributed by: J.J. McKenna

    Click this link to follow : The restoration story of RF-8G 145607

  • Update: 7/11/10--

    RF-8G BuNo 144617

    The Marine Photo Crusader is on display at the MCAS Miramar museum. It is in rough condition according to LCDR Tad Riley and in need of some TLC. The tail markings indicate it was last attached to VMCJ-3. It was also assigned to NADC and VFP-206.

  • Question: "Have Crusaders been restored to flyable condition?"


    Sit in the Cockpit of the Last U.S. Crusaders
    Told by Those Who Flew It

    "...the mouths of the young F-14 jocks hanging open,
    with whispers of 'What the hell was THAT?'
    as the burner lit...they were all in awe."
    Hoss Pearson.

    Click to go to Top of "We Love Crusaders" Page

"The modern Navy is a much safer way to make a living than the one 40 years ago, I think the public needs to know about the people and aircraft that led to our modern force. -- Kent Kaiser, son of CDR Dean E. Kaiser"

Of all the planes [F8, F4, F14] I flew, the F-8 was my favorite - Cress Bernard

    Interesting Crusader EXTERNAL LINKS

    The French Navy Crusaders

  • Update (1/7/14): Vinnie Zabicki provided the above photo with the message: "The photo is of the French F8 which I worked on at Pax river Naval Air Test Center (service test division). Jacob (Willie) Wilson [former VFP-62 electrician] and a crew from VF-174 were sent to France (aboard a French carrier) to help train French sailors."

    (7/18/13) Video of: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! First French Navy Crusader Carrier Ops Interesting views from under the Crusader as it is launched. Also read the history beneath the video. Turn up your speakers!--Via F8 Community Blog

  • (3/11/20) The Last of the Gunfighters F-8 Crusader Excellent 48 minute documentary on the history and highlights of the Crusader. Lots of air-to-air, combat, John Glenn "Project Bullet" and the Mach 2.6 F8-U3 Super Crusader videos. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

  • (9/1/14): YouTube VIDEO F-104 & Two French F8s Give an Airshow Very good quality and a good look at two great aircraft.

  • EXTERNAL (8 minutes)VIDEO LINK: The sole French Naval Aviation fighter for 35 years -- French Navy Carrier ops

  • (1/22/15) Good (8 minute)YouTube Video French carrier Flight Ops with F8s

  • Click to read an interesting account describing: Vietnam: The first supersonic war---the RF-4 photo-Phantom and the Crusader --The article describes some of the eight Vietnam-era military aircraft on display at the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Air & Space museum.

  • "It doesn't mention that the F-8 eventually was capable of 1.8 Mach (the only Navy jet of my era that got faster and more productive as it aged).

    The documentary describes the Air to Ground capability with Zunis, but does not mention 500 [and 2,000] pound bombs.

    There are a few clips of Hal Loney. Hal, Ron Evans, (some others I don't remember) were transitioning to the F-8 in VF-124 in August 64, before joining our Squadrons in October. Ron and I became Admin officers in sister squadrons VF-51 & VF-53 aboard USS Ticonderoga, Did not know until it happened, that Ron Evans became an Astronaut and circled the moon while Gene Cernan walked on the moon(Apollo 17). Don't know where Hal Loney ended up."
    --- Contributed by: Marlo Holland (F8 Community Forum)

  • (1/29/12): YouTube video..F-8 Crusader vs. F-4 Phantom Dogfight at early Top Gun

  • Interesting site on F8 flight testing: Crusader High Altitude Tests - -Marines, aircraft, & interesting links and stories. Contributed by Walt Quist

  • An interesting story of the first "Fly-by-Wire" development: F8 "Fly-by-Wire" test plane Using electronics and wires to control an aircraft was tested in the F8 Crusader. Contributed by Walt Quist

  • EXTERNAL (1 minute) VIDEO LINK: USS Shangri La CVA 38 Carrier Ops --Contributed: J.J. McKenna

  • Click to go to Top of "We Love Crusaders" Page

"The F4 was an enormously capable aircraft but, in my experience,
there was never anything like the F8 for the pure joy of flying a beautiful airplane." --Bruce Martin

    Flying Fast in the Crusader

    Captain Lynn Helms USMC was the first Naval Aviator to exceed 1000 MPH (June 1955). John Konrad received Crusader 1000 MPH Certificate Number 1. Lynn Helms received Crusader 1000 MPH Number 2, dated 24 June 1955, signed by Paul Thayer VP of Chance Vought. Duke Windsor received 1000 MPH Certificate Number 3.

  • (7/12/23)On June 6, 1957, two F8U Crusaders and two A3D Skywarriors flew non-stop from Bon Homme Richard off the California coast to USS Saratoga (CVA 60) off the east coast of Florida. This, the first carrier-to-carrier transcontinental flight, was completed by the F8U's in 3 hours 28 minutes and by the A3Ds in 4 hours 1 minute

  • I had a brand new [F8-]2NE (as it was designated then) on its fourth flight. While in level flight it went to 1.98 IMN [indicated mach number] and was still accelerating when the chase pilot asked me my speed. He then told me to slow down as he had lost sight of me. It was still stable and I believe it would have made 2.0. After landing the chase said the limit was 1.9 due to canopy heating limits.---Jerry Kuechmann


    Record Setting Flight in a F8U-1P by Maj. John Glenn USMC

  • In 1957, before the F8U-1P (later RF-8A)became fleet operational I was part of the team at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland which conducted the Board of Inspection and Survey (BIS) trials on the F8U-1P. It was this aircraft which was flown by Maj. John Glenn in "Project Bullet." Maj. Glenn was, at that time assigned at NATC as a test pilot.

    His wingman, Cmdr. Charles F. Demmler flew a F-8U-1 (later F8-A) fighter but damaged his fueling probe and had to depart the flight. The flight took off from NAS Los Alamitos in California and landed at Floyd Bennett Field in New York City. Glenn completed the 2,446-mile course averaging 725.5 mph, or Mach 1.1 at 35,000 feet during the flight's duration of 3 hours and 23 minutes breaking the existing speed record.

    Some additional info about the BIS Trials of the F8U-1P. Prior to starting the tests the team flew down to Dallas and spent several days at the Chance Vought plant observing many of the manufacturing processes involved in building the Crusader and getting a briefing on the operation of the various aircraft systems. --Provided by Harold (Hap) Murphy PHCS USN(RET)

    Webmaster's Note: The F8U-1P Maj. Glenn flew Project Bullet with was lost in an operational accident on 12/13/72 in the South China Sea, from VFP-63 Det. 34 on the USS Oriskany. LT. T. B. Scott was recovered.

  • For the Photo Pilot in Vietnam, supersonic was not greatly important but high subsonic was the key to long life there. Our mech's turned up the wick on the sleepy old J-57 when we went to the war and the usually fast RF-8G became very fast. The crew also waxed the wing and made it even faster. Running at 600 KIAS at 3500-5000' in MIL made it a great machine; anytime I got below 600 I bumped it back up with a little burner: very hard light at those speeds with welcome results, right back up to .99M in a hurry. ---Will Gray (VFP-63 67-70, 72-75, & 80)

    Getting Max Speed out of the "Gator"
    by Ron (Astro) Knott

  • As an IP at VF-174 I briefed the speed run many times. As I recall the following procedures were used to get max speed out of the "Gator." This was over 40 years ago so I will tell it like I remember. Corrections are appreciated.

    Before the flight we would contact meterology to find out the altitude of isothermal layer on that day. Isothermal process is a change in which the temperature of the system stays constant. It varies from day-to-day but is usually in the 40,000 ft. range. An average reduction value of 3░F per 1000ft is commonly used up to the isothermal layer. For some reason, unknown to me, this was the best altitude to get the highest speed out of the "Gator." And as I recall this altitude was usually between angels 37 to 42 [37000 - 42000 ft] on most days.

    The student and instructor would climb to angels 50, cruise droops in, slipping along at .96 M or better. Next procedure was to plug in the stereo [afterburner] and gently "0" g downhill to the isothermal layer altitude. Hopefully, you would accelerate above 1.35 Mach (the high drag area) on the high dive. We would level off at the isothermal layer and start a slow climb (1000 fpm) back up to the mid 40's and leveling off accelerating slowly to max speed. Remember we had a 5 minute max time on the burner.

    If you had a clean and powerful bird you could easily reach 1.7 to 1.86 (max speed) on this run which was well above 1000 MPH. If you got less than 1.35M on the downhill run the top speed would be reduced significantly.

    We also briefed that at the end of the speed run for the student to come out of burner and apply a 4 g turn. As you will remember there was no buffet at all when pulling g's supersonic in the F-8. However, when the bird went from supersonic to transonic to subsonic the shock wave traveled forward allowing the UHT to become much more effective. This 4 g turn instantly turned into a 6 or 7 g turn and the a/c would normally depart rapidly to the opposite direction of the turn. (Remember the cruise droops were in giving less lift as well.) The student would leave helmet paint on both sides of the canopy after such a rough departure.

    Not only was this a max speed run it was also a great demonstration of the high speed departure action of the F-8. Several a/c would accelerate beyond the 1.86 mach but that was not allowed according to the hand book. Of course many went up to the 2.0 M number so I was told. Those were the days my friend!

    [Webmaster's note: This was excerpted from the F8 Community web site, where pilot chat frequently brings up these interesting stories]

  • . . .the company [Chance Vought Aircraft] was disappointed with the max speed obtained in the first test plane(s); something around 1.4 mach. Then they "coked" [Coke bottle shaped] the fuselage a bit just behind the cockpit and dramatically improved the speed. Again if memory serves me, they could obtain 1.9 mach in a slight dive adding a little "G" force for stability.

    Later, I had an F8U-2 just out of maintenance check and after performing the check items, decided to see how fast it could go. Straight and level, altitude in the high 40s [40,000+ ft.], the mach meter read 1.85 (close to 1200 mph), but the nose began to "hunt and peck" and the canopy got hot to the touch. Fear and common sense made me back off at that point.---Dick Murdock (VF-124)

    (2/1/14):. . .I flew production test flights for NARF, PAR, O&R, out of NORIS for a couple of years. Every test flight required a speed run. The fastest that I was able to get a reworked F8 was an F8D (F8U-2N), to 1.95 imn. As described earlier, the nose began to twitch in yaw, which I always attributed to the vacuum tube stabilization systems, and a few stray electrons. One certainly did not want to lose the yaw stab at that sort of speed! I have read also that others managed to get the photo birds up to high speed. My experience with the original engined, F8U-1's, -1E's, -1P's was that the P-4A engine would drive the the RF8A or G to about 1.45 imn max. The F8A's and B's could reach between 1.6 imn and low 1.7 imn. The F8C with the P-16 was the best flying airframe, with a maximum speed of about 1.8 imn. The F8D was the fastest, with the F8E just a bit slower. This was with the P-20 engine. Because of the radar improvement, the F8E seemed nose heavy and just that bit less maneuverable in a hassle. Good memories! Roger Crim

    (2/1/14):Speaking of F8 speed runs, I can remember hitting 1.96 off Beaufort, SC in a clean (no rails) F8U-2 (F8C). It still had some oompf when the nose began to wander. The D's seemed to give up the ghost around 1.85. As for the F11's, in Kingsville I recall easing the nose down to get supersonic. Great days. Semper fi, Don Treichler

    (2/1/14): I also had an acceptance hop in a new 2NE while in VF 174. Clean bird, no racks or rails, hit 1.98 and had NAS Glynco ground speed me at 1196mph. Mac McCarthy

    And then there was...

    The Super-Sader (F8U-3)

    Click photo to enlarge

    Mach 3 prototype at Edwards (Click picture to enlarge) - Contributed by John Sees)

    " Above Mach 2 the thrust required and the thrust available diverged, and therefore the faster you went the faster you went.!!!!" - Hal Vincent

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    Crusader Simulator Photos

    Instructor's Simulator Control panels

    The role of a flight simulator is to acquaint and prepare pilots for flying a new aircraft type. An early version of such a simulator was being used for the RF-8 and F-8 Crusader.

    This simulator was restored and is exhibited at Fort Worth Aviation Museum, Forth Worth Texas, which provided the rare photos of this simulator and are shown below.

Click photo to enlarge.


RF-8 cockpit simulator. Note the photo viewfinder at top and camera control station in front of stick.

A closer look at the photo-Crusader's viewfinder used by the pilot to align his approach to the target. It could also input the altitude and speed to the camera controls.

Simulator spare electronic components including vacum tubes.

Simulator electronic modules. Remember, this was pre-solid state chips.

Pilot trainee records

The simulator was housed in this trainingr-trailer and could be moved to multiple sites for training.

Simulator spare parts.

Maps for training scenarios and pilot training folders.

Click to go to Top of "We Love Crusaders" Page