A Hellcat that Got Its Feet Wet

I recently heard about a Grumman Hellcat that is now a popular scuba wreck site in Indochina.  Not only is it a perfectly preserved plane that can be explored, it has a very interesting story to go along with it.

The F6-F Hellcat , like the Wildcat, was built by the U.S. firm Grumman.   Grumman produced 12,275 copies of the plane from 1942 to 1945. It was a  formidable fighter, 56% of all Japanese losses, more than 5,000 aircraft, were attributed to the Hellcat. The Hellcat had a wingspan of 13.05 m and a length of 10.2 m. It was powered by a 2,000 hp Pratt and Whitney R-2800-10, and could reach 605 km / h with a ceiling of 11,450 m. Its range was 1,755 km.

This copy was bought by France in 1950 had served in Indochina before being repatriated in Hyères in August 1954. The sunken wreck was discovered in 1999. The archives of the Navy mention a ditching following an engine failure during an exercise to fly landing configurations designed  to test the reactions of the plane at a reduced speed. But when Jean-Noël Duval, Patron of the CIP Lavandou and discoverer of the wreck, contacted the pilot Jack Langin in July 1999, he told him the real reason for the presence of the aircraft under the sea.

On May 14, 1956 young pilot, Jack Langin headed off for a training flight. Joined by another driver, they had fun doing low altitude passes above the sea, but a slight mistake caused him to touch the surface of the sea. The engine stalled and Jack no longer has as an option but than attempting a water landing, which he did. He left the cockpit and was recovered in his rescue dinghy. If he told the truth, his career would have been over before it even began!  This accident led to the invention of this story about an engine failure before the Commission of Inquiry by the Navy.

This is the ultimate aircraft wreckage.  The wreck lies at a depth of 57 m off of Cape Negro in Indochina and is reserved for experienced divers. It is located on the flat sandy bottom. During the descent,  the Hellcat feels like its going to take off again because it appears absolutely flawless even after more than 50 years spent under water. The landing of Jack Langin had to be perfect, the fuselage , tail , as well as the wings are intact. In addition the guns and the cockpit canopy are still attached.  At the front the engine is in good condition, however the propeller is missing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *