Lockheed XFV-1 a failed experiment in VTOL

The Lockheed XFV-1 was an experimental VTOL aircraft prototype designed to demonstrate that a fighter could be deployed on convoy ships to provide them with air cover. It would take off and land from a tail sitting position. It was certainly a unique concept!

The US Navy ordered the aircraft in 1951 and 2 prototypes were built in 1953. The XFV-1 was nicknamed ‘Salmon‘ after the chief test pilot of the aircraft, Herman ‘Fish’ Salmon and was powered by 5,332hp Allison YT40-A-14 turboprop engine that drove three-bladed contra-rotating propellers. It was a one weird-looking aircraft!

In the 1950's he XFV-1 was intended to be vertically launched and landed aboard ships to protect convoys
In the 1950’s he XFV-1 was intended to be vertically launched and landed aboard ships to protect convoys

Test flights were conducted between 1954 – 1955 but only one of the prototypes ever flew. A temporary undercarriage was attached to assist in take off and landings.

XFV-1 in flight
XFV-1 in flight

The biggest problem for the XFV-1 was that it was very difficult to handle and in a total of 32 flights it never actually made any vertical take offs or landings (except for an accidental hop in 1953 before proper flight testing). During flight testing the pilots were able to transition from level flight to vertical, so at least that worked! The XFV-1 was never going to be operationally effective and ultimately the project was cancelled in 1955. A competitor for this project was the Convair XFY-1 Pogo and although it was more successful in vertical take off, it was difficult to fly and land and was also cancelled, with its last flight taking place in 1956 (3 were built but only 1 ever flew). Both aircraft were also not fast enough to compete against enemy jet-engined aircraft so the concept was eventually abandoned.

Convair XFY-1 Pogo
Convair XFY-1 Pogo (Photo Source: US Navy)

Although a cancelled project the flying prototypes of both aircraft still exist. The XFV-1 used in the flight testing is today restored and on display at the Florida Air Museum in Lakeland. I got to see it at the Sun ‘n Fun Air Show this year. For some reason it is painted with the serial number 658 rather than 657.

XFV-1 Florida Air Museum Lakeland
XFV-1 – a unique tail landing VTOL fighter prototype
XFV-1 Florida Air Museum Lakeland
XFV-1
XFV-1 Florida Air Museum Lakeland
XFV-1
XFV-1 Florida Air Museum Lakeland
XFV-1
XFV-1 Florida Air Museum Lakeland
XFV-1 – the exhaust port for the turbo-prop can be clearly seen from this angle

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4 thoughts on “Lockheed XFV-1 a failed experiment in VTOL

  1. Hi Deano — nice post especially since vertical flight can be so elusive! The Lockheed is a very large aircraft. Aside from the photos you have of it, where it resides upwardly pointed outside the Florida Air Museum in Lakeland, I was also able to photograph it when it was parallel to the ground as well as walk around it in their hangar. It is fairly and truely immense. Just down the way is the Convair Sea Dart — I understand it has been freshly painted so I plan a revisit soon 🙂 Joe

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    1. Hi Joe, that would been interesting to see it parallel to the ground. The Sea Dart looks very good. I plan to do a post with a photo the one at Lakeland and San Diego.

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