Vought, Chance Milton
EngineerEnshrined 1989 1890-1930
Before his death in 1930 Vought realized his boyhood dream of founding a company that reflected his strict creative discipline and he won the respect fellow aviators and the American people. By 1928 the company had grown from a dozen men using a damp, cold loft floor to the second largest producer of military airplanes in the country.
- In 1914, he designed the Mayo-Vought simplex aircraft that was used by the British as a World War I training plane.
- The Vought VE-7 fitted with an arresting hook made naval history in 1922 when it was used on the refitted USS Langley aircraft carrier.
- The Vought UO-1 gave the Navy its first catapult launched aircraft.
- More than 15,000 military aircraft were built bearing the Vought name, including the 026 Corsair of 1928, the F4U Bentwing Corsair of World War II fame, the F-8 Crusader and A-7 Corsair II aircraft.
Chance Milton Vought was a pioneer airplane engineer, designer, and visionary whose contributions to early naval aviation place him among the founders of the modern aerospace industry.
Born on February 26th, 1890 in New York City, Vought studied engineering at the Pratt Institute, New York University, and the University of Pennsylvania. A superb student, he was usually ahead of his class in theory and principles of engineering. He left school in 1910 to work for Harold F. McCormick, president of McCormick Reapers, an early aircraft backer.
He learned to fly from the Wright Brothers in 1911 and in eight months, received FAI pilot’s certificate No. 156. He became an aeronautical engineer and pilot for the Max Lillie School of Aviation in 1913. While at Lillie, he also managed time to edit the pioneer American aviation weekly, Aero & Hydro.
Having developed some sound and unique ideas on how to design an airplane, Vought went to work at the Mayo Radiator Works. His first aircraft design, the Mayo-Vought-Simplex, was built in 1914 and used by the British as a World War I pilot training plane. In 1916 the Wright Company of Dayton approached Vought to join them long term as Chief Engineer. Chance declined a contract, stating that he would not be legally bound to anyone, but worked there for a short time. During his brief tenure at Wright, he produced the famous Model V Wright Flyer.
On June 18th, 1917, Chance Vought and Birdseye Lewis formed the Lewis & Vought Corporation to design, build, and sell their own aircraft. At Lewis & Vought, Chance quickly began the task of perfecting his design for a standardized military training plane. The company’s first product was the VE-7 and the War Department enthusiastically supported it. General Billy Mitchell saluted Vought’s efforts by saying that the Vought machine had all the air qualities of a single seat chassis machine, able to outmaneuver almost anything in the air. Vought personally designed, supervised, and approved every phase of the trainer’s construction. Vought and Lieutenant Commander Marc Mitscher are depicted here, acting as judges in the New York Toronto Air Race in which the VE-7 won the training handicap event against a field of thirty competitors.
A contemporary described Vought as one of the outstanding designers in the United States in the 1920s whose work was characterized by advanced thought, sound and finished construction, clean lines, and attractive appearance. He became interested in the specialized problems of naval aviation and suggested to the Navy the Wasp-size engine, which it ordered from Pratt and Whitney.
As a division of United Aircraft and Transportation Corporation in the 1920s, the Vought company prospered. When the Navy refitted the USS Langley from an overall collier and made it into the first aircraft carrier, the Vought VE-7, fitted with a crude arresting hook, made naval aviation history in 1922. The Vought UO-l gave the Navy its first catapult launched aircraft. Introduced to the fleet a year later, they were quickly assigned to every battleship and cruiser then in service.
Later, Chance Vought diligently started the task of designing an aircraft that would combine the best of the features available to aviation science. The result was the 02U-1, the first Corsair. The Corsair’s tactical flexibility rapidly earned it the reputation as a jack-of-all-trades. They could be flown on wheels from an aircraft carrier as a defensive fighter, catapulted as an amphibian from battleships and cruisers and land on carriers for reservicing. In all, over 500 02U variants were built for the Navy and export.
More than 15,000 military aircraft were built bearing the Vought name, including the 02U Corsair of 1928, the F4U Bentwing Corsair of World War II fame, the F-8 Crusader and today’s A-7 attack aircraft. Chance Vought had realized his boyhood dream. He had founded a company that reflected his own strict creative discipline and in so doing won the respect of his aviation fellows and the American people. In wane years of economic strife his company showed continued growth. In spite of numerous mergers and transi-tions, LTV Aircraft Products Group remains one of the leading members of the aerospace industry and LTV is the second oldest aircraft company in existence today.
Vought, tragically, would not live to see the tremendous success of his company and its famous airplanes in the 1930s and beyond. Chance Vought died unexpectedly at the young age of 40 from septicemia, or blood poisoning, July 25th, 1930. His death came just two days after that of fellow aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss.
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