This was prepared to introduce the reader to the Chance Vought Survivors Club, hereinafter referred to as the Vought Survivors. In order to grasp what the Vought Survivors are all about it is necessary to understand a little about the history of the Company that spawned it; the Chance Vought Aircraft Company.
HISTORY OF CHANCE VOUGHT AIRCRAFT COMPANY
The second oldest American aircraft company, Boeing being the first, traces its origin in 1917 to a small Long Island, N.Y., aircraft firm established by Chance Milton Vought, a young aeronautical engineer and aviation pioneer. The first Vought Aircraft, the VE-7, made aviation history in 1922 when it became the first American aircraft to take off from an aircraft carrier.
Since then, more than 15,000 aircraft in more than 50 models have carried the Vought name, and many have made important contributions to the advancement of aviation history.
The “Corsair” tradition started in 1926 when Vought built the O2U-1, a biplane that could be used on land or at sea. This series of aircraft established three world speed records and an altitude record.
In 1929, Chance Vought Corporation joined with Boeing, Hamilton Standard, Pratt & Whitney and United Airlines to form United Aircraft and Transport Corporation. Government policies forced reorganization in 1935, and Chance Vought Aircraft became a division of United Aircraft. Then from 1939 until 1943, the company was merged with Sikorsky Aircraft to form the Vought-Sikorsky division of United Aircraft. During this period the company moved from Long Island to East Hartford, Connecticut and later to Stratford, Connecticut, where it remained through to duration of World War II.
One of the best-known Vought aircraft was the F4U Corsair, which won the skies over the Pacific during World War II with an 11-to-1 victory ratio over enemy aircraft.
In 1948 the company moved to Dallas, Texas which brought 1500 people to the area in the largest industrial move in the nation’s history at that time, ushering in the jet era.
In 1954 Chance Vought Aircraft became an independent company, separating from United Aircraft.
In 1960 the company merged with Ling-Temco and 4 years later, the LTV Aerospace Corporation was formed as a subsidiary of Ling-Temco-Vought Inc.
One of the products designed, developed, manufactured and tested by Vought in Dallas, which made more than its share of aviation history was the F8U Crusader, which advanced Navy fighter operations from the subsonic regime to near Mach 2 speeds. Shattering records for the Navy and the Marines, this aircraft set the nation’s first speed mark for more than 1,000 mph. In 1956 the U.S. Navy and Vought were awarded the Collier Trophy in recognition of the unique design, concept and development of the F8U.
Another Vought, Texas product was the A-7 Corsair II derived its name from Vought’s famed F4U, and like the earlier F4U Corsair, the A-7s have a distinguished combat record, having fought in Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, Libya and Vietnam, where Navy and Air Force versions flew more than 100,000 combat sorties. Navy A-7Es also joined the coalition forces in combat in Iraq, where they carried such munitions as high-speed anti-radiation (HARN) missiles and Walleye missiles. The last of the A-7Es were retired from Naval operational fleet service in May 1991. Altogether, more than 1,500 of the single engine Corsair II were produced from 1964 to 1983.
Following the war in Vietnam, when prime aerospace contracts diminished, Vought offered the rest of the industry a new kind of support partnership. Voughts retreat from competition for the few available prime programs heralded its emergence as a major subcontractor, made unique by the retention of prime capabilities – integrated concurrent engineering, sophisticated testing laboratories and advanced manufacturing.
In its role of subcontractor, Vought successfully executed many military and commercial contracts in partnership with other aerospace firms with long and distinguished histories in the aerospace industry including:
Boeing – 747, 757 & 767 Airlines
Rockwell – B-1 Bomber
Northrop – B-2 Stealth Bomber
McDonald Douglas – C-17 Airlifter and DC-10 Airliner
Canadair – CL-601 and Canadair Regional Jet
In 1992, Ling-Temco-Vought sold what was known as the Aircraft Division of LTV Aerospace & Defense to the Carlyle Croup, an investment company headquartered in Virginia and the Northrop Corporation. The emerging company was named, Vought Aircraft Company and would operate autonomously under the ownership of the Carlyle Group. Additionally, the missiles division was sold to the Loral Corporation and later became part of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.
In 1994, Northrop Grumman purchased Carlyle’s interest in the Vought Aircraft Company and assumed operational control of the Dallas Facility, and was renamed the Vought Center, Northrop Grumman Commercial Aircraft Division.
In 2000 the Carlyle Group purchased the entire company from Northrop Grumman and established Vought Aircraft Industries Inc., an aerostructures subcontractor.
As a subcontractor division of Northrop Grumman and Carlyle, Vought acquired contract for parts of other aircraft including:
Boeing – 787
Lockheed – F-22 Raptor, F35 Lighting II
Bell Helicopter – V-22 Osprey, Sikorsky H - 60 Black Hawk
Airbus – A319, A320, A330, A340
In June 2010, the Carlyle Group sold Vought to the Triumph Group, an aerospace component manufacturer, and is now operated as Triumph Group - Vought Aircraft Division.
CHANCE VOUGHT SURVIVORS CLUB
As one can see by reviewing the Vought Company history, Vought has a long and storied heritage as one of the oldest and most innovative designers and builders of aircraft in the nation. The question then becomes; how can the Vought heritage be preserved in light of multiple changes in ownership and management with the potential loss of invaluable archival information documenting our heritage?
To address this question, a small group of Vought retirees gathered together in a North Dallas restaurant in October 1991, with the stated objectives of keeping the Vought Heritage alive and for the fellowship of sharing career experiences. This was the beginning of the Chance Vought Survivors Club.
Select to view photos of a small gathering of Vought retirees in 1991.
One year later, the membership had grown to over 100 and today, the membership is slightly over 450.
The only requirement for membership is to have worked for Chance Vought Aircraft prior to October 1961. This requirement was established so that we could draw on the retained Vought data and the memory of each individual member to fill in the gaps that may be created as a result of lost or destroyed documentation.
As a result of the Vought Survivors meetings plus small sub-committee meetings, it was agreed that the best ways to keep the Vought Heritage alive was to:
- Accumulate all of the available data on Vought’s history, design and create a Website, and place it on the Internet; and
- Obtain Vought artifacts, including aircraft and missiles, and refurbish them for display in local aviation museums.
Unfortunately, our little group of Vought Retirees did not possess the capital resources to accomplish either of these projects even though we had the human resources to execute both.
Fortunately, when Northrop Grumman purchased Vought Aircraft Company in 1995, they established a very active retiree club named the Northrop Grumman Vought Center Retiree Club, it was suggested that they take up the heritage preservation projects. Two projects were proposed. The first project was to create an internet website to collect and publish the history of Chance Vought and the companies he was responsible for creating. The second project was the establishment of a restoration group to locate, procure and restore, to museum quality, artifacts of the Vought companies. As a result, both projects were presented to Northrop Grumman management and were enthusiastically accepted.
Both projects are currently “works-in-progress” supported by an enthusiastic group of retirees from the Vought Survivors Club, the Vought Heritage Foundation and the Vought Retiree Club.
Vought Survivors Club