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The Vought VE-7 Bluebird was an early biplane of the United States. First flying in 1917, it was designed as a two-seat trainer for the United States Army, then adopted by the United States Navy as its very first fighter aircraft. In 1922, a VE-7 became the first plane to take off from an American aircraft carrier.
Design and development
The Lewis & Vought Corporation was formed just months after the U.S. entered World War I, with the intention of servicing war needs. The company's trainer was patterned after successful European designs; for instance, the engine was a Wright Hispano Suiza of the type used by the French Spads. In practice, the VE-7's performance was much better than usual for a trainer, and comparable to the best fighters, and the Army ordered 1,000 of an improved design called the VE-8. However, the contract was cancelled due to the end of the war.
However, the Navy was very interested in the VE-7, and received a first machine in May 1920. Production orders soon followed, in fact beyond what the fledgling Vought organization could handle, and the Naval Aircraft Factory was pressed into service. In all, 128 VE-7s were built.
The fighter version of the VE-7 was designated VE-7S. It was a single-seater, the front cockpit being faired over and a Script error: No such module "convert". Vickers machine gun mounted over it, on the left side and synchronized to fire through the propeller. Some planes, designated VE-7SF, had floatation gear consisting of inflatable bags stowed away, available to help keep the plane afloat when ditching at sea.
The Bluebird won the 1918 Army competition for advanced training machines.
The VE-8 variant completed in July 1919 had a 340hp Wright-Hispano H engine, reduced overall dimensions, increased wing area, a shorter faired cabane, and two Vickers guns. Two were completed. Flight test results were disappointing, the aircraft was overweight, with heavy controls, inadequate stability and sluggish performance.
The VE-9 variant, first delivered to the Navy on 24 June 1922, was essentially an improved VE-7, with most of the improvements in the fuel system area. Four of the 21 ordered by the U.S. Navy were unarmed observation float seaplanes for battleship catapult use.
The VE-7s equipped the Navy's first two fighter squadrons VF-1 and VF-2. A VE-7 flown by Lieutenant Virgil C. Griffin made history on October 17, 1922 when it took off from the deck of the newly commissioned carrier Langley. The VE-7s were the Navy's frontline fighters for several years, with three still assigned to the Langley in 1927; all were retired the following year.
- VE-7 (1918) - 14 built for the U.S. Army Air Service; 39 built for the U.S. Navy; (One of 2 known built at McCook Field. Reportedly 4 more were built by Springfield Co)
- VE-7F (1921) - 29 built for the U.S. Navy
- VE-7G (1921) - One converted from VE-7 for U.S. Marine Corps, 23 converted from VE-7 for U.S. Navy
- VE-7GF (1921) - One converted from VE-7
- VE-7H (1924) - Nine built for the U.S. Navy
- VE-7S (1925) - One converted from VE-7
- VE-7SF (1925) - 11 built for the U.S. Navy
- VE-7SH - One VE-7SF converted into a floatplane.
- VE-8 (1918) - Four ordered by the U.S. Army on October 11, 1918; two were canceled; 340 hp Wright-Hispano H engine installed, two Vickers guns, wingspan decreased to Script error: No such module "convert"., wing area increased to Script error: No such module "convert"., shortened to Script error: No such module "convert"., speed increased to Script error: No such module "convert"., loaded weight increased to Script error: No such module "convert".
- VE-9 (1921) - Two converted from VE-7 for U.S. Army; speed increased to Script error: No such module "convert"., service ceiling increased to Script error: No such module "convert".
- VE-9 (1927) - 22 built for the U.S. Army, 17 built for the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Army used same designation as U.S. Navy)
- VE-9H (1927) - Four unarmed observation float seaplanes built for the U.S. Navy battleships, modified vertical tail surfaces for improved catapult and water stability
- VE-9W - canceled
- A scratch-built replica of the Bluebird was completed in early 2007 by volunteers of the Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation.
Data from Janes Fighting Aircraft of World War I by Michael John Haddrick Taylor (Random House Group Ltd. 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA, 2001, ISBN 1-85170-347-0), 320 pp.General characteristics
- Crew: 2
- Length: 24 ft 5.375 in (7.45 m)
- Wingspan: 34 ft 4 in (10.47 m)
- Height: 8 ft 7.5 in (2.63 m)
- Wing area: 284.5 ft² (26.43 m²)
- Empty weight: 1,392 lb (631 kg)
- Loaded weight: 1,937 lb (879 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Wright-Hispano E-3 2-blade, 8 ft 8 in (2.64 m) diameter propeller, 180 hp (134 kW)
- Maximum speed: 106 mph (171 km/h)
- Range: 290 mi (467 km)
- Service ceiling: 15,000 ft (4,600 m)
- Rate of climb: 738 ft/min (225 m/min)</ul>Armament
(VE-7S) 1 Vickers .30 in (7.62 mm) machine gun synchronize to fire through the propeller
- [Lloyd S. Jones, U.S. Naval Fighters (Fallbrook CA: Aero Publishers, 1977, ISBN 0-8168-9254-7), pp. 11-13]
- Janes Fighting Aircraft of World War I by Michael John Haddrick Taylor (Random House Group Ltd. 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA, 2001, ISBN 1-85170-347-0), page 252.
- The Complete Book of Fighters cover Editors: William Green & Gordon Swanborough (Barnes & Noble Books New York, 1998, ISBN 0-7607-0904-1), pp. 336-337
- K.O. Eckland's Aerofiles; accessed 13 May 2007
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