(Chance) Milton Vought was born in New York City in 1890. He became an
engineer and designer in 1909, learned to fly in 1910 from pioneer aviator
Max T. Lillie, and in 1916 became the chief designer of the Wright
Company, where he designed the Wright-Martin V. On June 18, 1917, he and
Birdseye Lewis established Lewis & Vought Corporation to profit from the
opportunities presented by World War I. Vought died prematurely in 1930
from blood poisoning at the age of 42. After Boeing, the company, under
various names, is the oldest airframe manufacturer in the United States.
first successful plane, the VE-7 "Bluebird" trainer, appeared in 1920. It
was adapted as a fighter, and in 1922 made the first takeoff from the
first U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Langley. Vought followed with
the VE-11, regarded as the first true naval fighter. Vought reorganized
his company into the Chance Vought Corporation in May 1922, where he would
produce his famous Corsair aircraft.
Corsair was the O2U-1 in 1926. It was the first Navy plane that used the
Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engine. The all-metal two-seat biplane served
as a reconnaissance plane and also as a light bomber and as an observation
plane. Almost 300 were built. In 1927, it set four world records for speed
until 1934, when it was forced to dissolve by provisions of the Air Mail
Act of 1934, Chance Vought was part of the holding company, United
Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC) along with Pratt & Whitney,
Boeing Airplane and Transport, Hamilton Metalplane, and Sikorsky. By June
1935, all but Boeing had formed the United Aircraft Manufacturing Company,
part of the United Aircraft Corporation.
1930s Chance Vought supplied naval aircraft in small numbers. Its 1935 SBU
biplane scout bomber led to the more advanced low-winged SB2U Vindicator,
which first flew on January 4, 1936. The Vindicator also was exported to
Britain and France but was obsolete by the time World War II began. The
OS2U Kingfisher scout/observation aircraft, which entered service in 1940,
was more successful. It was the first Navy catapult-launched monoplane
observation airplane and could be used as a landplane and a floatplane.
Vought began efforts to produce a fighter plane. The advanced, powerful
XF4U project, begun under chief engineer Rex Beisel, would thrust Vought
into the forefront of fighter producers.
F4U Corsair first flew on May 29, 1940. The Corsair, with its inverted
gull wing and powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine, became one of the
outstanding combat aircraft of the war. More than 5,000 Corsairs were
produced in 1944 alone. Goodyear and, for a short time, Brewster, also
produced the plane, which was built through 1952.
continuing production of the F4U Corsair, Vought developed the SV5U
"Flying Pancake," which gained its nickname because of its flattened,
rounded shape, and the F6U Pirate, one of three first-generation naval
jets along with the North American FJ-1 Fury and McDonnell FH-1 Phantom.
In 1948, the
Navy, apprehensive about having its major aircraft producers on the
coasts, announced that Chance Vought would move to Dallas, Texas, and take
over a closed North American Aviation plant. The move, which was completed
in only 14 months was the largest industrial move to that time, involving
1,300 key employees, 2,000 machines, and 50 million pounds of equipment.
the radical twinjet, swept-wing, tailless F7U Cutlass naval fighter began
in the late 1940s. The plane first flew in 1948 and the first F7U-3
debuted in December 1951. However, production was cut back in 1954 and it
was withdrawn from service in 1957.
In May 1953,
Vought won the contract for a new fighter over seven competitors. The
XF8U-1 Crusader was the first plane to break the sound barrier on its
maiden flight, on March 25, 1955. Future astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr.,
broke the transcontinental speed record for the 2,445-mile (745-kilometer)
trip between New York-Los Angeles in a Crusader on July 16, 1957,
averaging of 734 miles per hour (1,181 kilometres per hour). Eventually,
1,263 Crusaders were built. The Crusader was the first operational
aircraft to use folding wings, valuable on board aircraft carriers. The
plane won the prestigious Collier Trophy in 1957.
also moved into the area of missiles and launch vehicles. Development of
the Regulus I guided missile started in the late 1940s and flight testing
began in 1950. The missile was powered by a turbojet engine and cruised at
subsonic speeds, going supersonic in its dive to the target. Regulus I
missiles were deployed on submarines through 1964. Flight testing of the
Regulus II supersonic cruise missile started in 1956. However, the Navy
canceled this program in December 1958 to devote its resources to the
Polaris ballistic missile program.
Vought won the
contract for the Scout launch vehicle in early 1959. The Scout was a
four-stage vehicle propelled by solid-propellant rocket motors. Its first
launch was July 1, 1960, and for the next 34 years, Scouts was used for
both orbital and suborbital missions.
11, 1964, Vought won, against strong competition, the contract to develop
the subsonic A-7 Corsair II. Developed from the supersonic F-8, it was the
first supersonic design adopted into a subsonic design. The A-7 first flew
on September 27, 1965, and was adopted by the Air Force and Navy. A-7
production eventually totalled more than 1,500, including exports, when
completed in 1982. It was the last aircraft designed and produced by the
company. In the late 1960s, the company began manufacturing aerostructures
for many aircraft. These would include the Boeing 747, 757, 767, and the
new C-17; Lockheed DC-10 and C-130; Rockwell B1-B; and Northrop Grumman
began producing wings for the Gulfstream V corporate jet in 1995 under a
revenue-sharing agreement and continued producing subassemblies for many
commercial and military aircraft,
years, the Lewis & Vought Corporation of 1917 has undergone many
transitions, including name changes, reorganizations, and changes in
In the early
1950s, Chance Vought Aircraft separated from United Aircraft and became an
independent corporation on July 1, 1954, with Fred O. Detweiler as company
president. The company became Chance Vought Corporation on December 31,
1960. In 1961, the company merged with Ling-Temco following a failed
antitrust suit that Vought brought against Ling. Paul Thayer, a longtime
Vought employee and test pilot, became Vought president, replacing Fred O.
In 1965, a
further reorganization created three operating divisions: LTV Aerosystems,
primarily the old Chance Vought; LTV Electrosystems; and LTV Ling-Altec.
The firm became LTV Corporation on May 5, 1971. LTV acquired the remaining
publicly held shares of Chance Vought. Under LTV Corporation was LTV
Aerospace, which housed Vought Aeronautics, Vought Helicopters, the
marketing subsidiary for French Aerospatiale helicopters, and other units.
On January 1,
1976, LTV Aerospace was renamed Vought Corporation. By April 1983, in an
attempt to strengthen aerospace operations, Vought Corporation was renamed
LTV Aerospace and Defense Company, divided into a Missiles and Advanced
Programs Division and an Aero Products Division. The company filed for
bankruptcy in July 1986, which led to still another restructuring that
resulted in a profit again by the late 1980s. LTV's Paul Thayer, who had
become chief executive in 1970, left in January 1983 to become deputy
secretary of defense but eventually left after being implicated in illegal
In 1992, LTV
sold its aircraft division to Northrop Corporation, an aerospace company,
and to the Carlyle Group, a private investment firm. Northrop Grumman
bought the entire company in September 1994, and from 1994 to 2000, the
entity was an operating unit of Northrop Grumman, focusing on
aerostructures. In July 2000, Northrop Grumman sold its aerostructures
business to the Carlyle Group. Vought Aircraft Industries once again
became an independent company and is now the world's largest independent
company of 6,000 employees and annual sales of more than $1 billion, is
still hitting some rough spots. At the end of October 2001, Vought
announced that it would be cutting 1,200 jobs, or 20 percent of its work
force, partly as a result of a downturn at Boeing due to lessening
aircraft purchases resulting from a general downturn in the economy and
the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.