The Grumman G-32A "Flying Barrel"
The Grumman F3F-3 signalled the end of an era in that it was the last biplane fighter for the US Navy. Serving as fighter trainers, they were known for their colourful Pre-World War II colour schemes. When the US entered the war, over 180 F3F-3 biplanes were still in Navy and Marine inventories, and most were eventually transferred into training units.
The Grumman F3F was a development of the F2F-1, featuring a longer fuselage and greater wingspan. The prototype XF3F-1 first flew in early 1935. It crashed in May of that year and was replaced with a second prototype, with the same serial number. Fifty-four production F3F-1 fighters were delivered to the Navy in 1936, initially serving with the USS Saratoga (CV-3) and USS Ranger (CV-4) fighting squadrons.
Featuring a more powerful engine for better performance, a larger engine cowling and a different cockpit canopy design, the prototype XF3F-2 began Navy testing in January 1937. Eighty-one F3F-2 models were ordered. These initially equipped two Marine Corps fighter squadrons on the USS Enterprise (CV-6) during 1938. One of these became the XF3F-3. Twenty-seven F3F-3 fighters were delivered in 1938-39, serving with Fighter Squadron Five on the USS Yorktown (CV-5).
The Grumman F3F served with front-line squadrons until 1940-41. During the first part of World War II, the surviving planes were used for advanced training and in utility roles.
In 1938, the G-32 Gulfhawk III was built. The primary differences were the addition of a second cockpit, the use of the F3F wings with the addition of slit flaps on the trailing edge of the upper wing, and it was powered by a 950 hp Wright GR-1820-G5 Cyclone engine. In 1942, Gulf Oil gave the plane to the Army Air Force to be used as a ferry pilot trainer. It was operated by Pan Am, which trained the majority of ferry pilots during the war. After the war it was owned by several civilian pilots and eventually crashed in the Florida Everglades.
The G-32A, the final civilian Gulfhawk, was built in 1938 for use by Grumman. Painted in the company colours of red and black, it was known as the "Little Red Ship" and was similar to the G-32. The aircraft was used as the company runabout and VIP transport and was flown by Roy Grumman on several occasions. The plane was also used to train ferry pilots during World WarII.
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