V-173 The Flying Pancake

Owner - Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

1428_19_oBackground - The V-173 was built as a prototype technology demonstrator for the XF5-U1, a high speed Navy fighter developed in the 1940’s that was capable of short take-offs and landings. The aerodynamic design is a version of a flying wing enhanced by the large propellers located at the outer edges of the wing. The XF5-U1 contract was cancelled in 1947 just before its first flight, so the V-173 is the one and only article remaining for this endeavor.

The V-173 has a wing span of 23.5 feet and weighs 2750 pounds. It has two 80 HP piston engines driving 16 foot diameter propellers through cross shafting and 90 degree gearboxes. It accommodated a single pilot and had fixed landing gears.

The V-173 aircraft was built under a 1940 Navy Contract and made its first flight on November 23, 1942. Test flights continued until 1947 for a total 199 flights, totaling 131hours. The aircraft was put in storage in 1947 at the Norfolk Virginia Naval Air Station where it spent part time parked outside in the weather. In 1961 it was transferred to indoor storage at a NASM facility in Silver Hill Maryland.

In 2001 a Vought executive taking a tour of the NASM facility spotted the V-173 in the storage area. Immediately discussions began to convince NASM that Vought had the facilities and personnel to perform an authentic restoration of one of the most interesting aircraft ever built and certainly the most unique produced by Vought. In 2003 NASM approved the loan to the Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation for the restoration.


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