Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Thanks to Admiral Whitey Feightner, Everyone Who Attended Our Meeting Last March Is Now Ready To Fly The Quirky Corsair

Why does Whitey Feightner have only nine confirmed "kills" in the Pacific Theater during World War Two. I thought he had more? (Unofficial tally: 31)

I was asked this question again recently and offered this answer: the Armed Services want "proof" of a kill (i.e. gun camera footage), or receive reports from reliable eyewitnesses, before verify a pilot's after-action report. (Some folks have been known to exaggerate, you know.)

One of Whitey's frequent tactics was a daring but effective one, however, it was nearly impossible to verify.

After flying a captured Zero he was quick to realize its controls became very "stiff" above 300 miles an hour. Whitey would "allow" an enemy to get on his tail, then "ease" his Hellcat into a diving spiral. With tracers whizzing past his canopy, Whitey would tighten the spiral just enough to make his enemy keep missing, but continue to pursue him. Whitey would dive and spiral toward the ocean until his Grumman fighter was well above 300 miles per hour, then pull up sharply. The pilot in the pursing Zero would only then realized he was doomed.

Unlike spectator sports, there was almost never an eyewitness around who could say with certainty that he saw the dogfight, usually because everyone else was just as busy as Whitey was ... dogfighting.

This also wasn't Whitey's only tactic. In the final accounting Whitey was credited with nine planes confirmed, nine more probable and four damaged. Anyway you cut it, Whitey was one helluva Hellcat pilot who should have at least 18 planes to his credit. (Although Whitey would be the last one to care.)

Who is this "super"pilot, you ask? Well, he is the same mild-mannered Silver Winger who addressed our March luncheon.

Whitey Feightner is a legend. He soloed his first airplane in 1938 with only and hour and a half of flying time and one landing to his credit, and if that sounds incredible, you will probably fall off your stool when I tell that the airplane he soloed was a Ford Tri-Motor Transport.

In May or June Whitey and I will begin recording his whole story. It will be a treasure we will all be able to share forever.

We are grateful to Whitey for sharing stories about flying the F4U Corsair at our luncheon on March 22nd. He recalled some entertaining memories for us and presented a very detailed company film about the F4U ... the same plane that was made famous by "Pappy" Boyington in the South Pacific.

By the way, Whitey and Pappy flew together at Guadalcanal.

62 Silver-Wingers and guests attended our luncheon, the 74th luncheon since our chapter was formed by Charlie Stanton and Bernie Geier more than twelve years ago.

As usual, Yasmin was our "official" photographer. For the few who may not know, 27 year old Yasmin David was born with Down Syndrome. Had she been born without this nasty, little genetic anomaly, she would have been a wonderful pilot. As it is, she is world's greatest co-pilot. She is content to fly from the right seat, thinks all my take-offs and landings are "great", and falls asleep in flight with the next chart in her hand ready to pass it over when tapped on the shoulder. (She also laughs at all my jokes.)

Within our Silver Wings Chapter membership we have pilots who have flown almost any plane you can think of, from the Jenny, the Cub and the Ford to the Space Shuttle ... and the Zero.

Off the top of my head, I can think of members with wartime experiences in nearly every mainline fighter, bomber, transport and trainer in the the U.S. inventory, including turbine-powered aircraft, and Silver Wings is not even a military organization.

Major General Mike "Lancer" Sullivan, USMC (ret.), is a friend of Silver Wings who shared the wonderful Corsair video with us. It is a copy of a film produced by Chance Vought in 1944 that really puts YOU in the cockpit as you put the F4U through stalls, dives, and even a field carrier approach. With that sudden stall, it is no wonder quite a few Corsairs and their pilots bought the farm during landings ... especially carrier landing. "Lancer" advises that the video is now available on the web. You can click here to view it or download it.

1 comment:

  1. Ron,

    What a great luncheon on 3/22! I loved the footage of the Corsair and was amazed to learn its nasty stall characteristics.

    Already looking forward to May.....

    David Fields