The Vought F4U Corsair was one of the best planes that took to the air during World War II. It also saw action in the Korean War and in the 1969 Soccer War. But while the plane took out a ton of Axis thugs and Commies, it also took out more than a few of its own pilots.
This is because the Corsair was quite…tricky to fly. It had the nickname of “Ensign Eliminator” due to the difficulty many new pilots (usually with the rank of Ensign) had landing it on a carrier. The Grumman F6F Hellcat had almost as good performance – and it was a much more docile plane. So, the Navy passed the Corsair on to the Marine Corps.
In World War II, the plane also saw action with the Royal Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force, while France bought Corsairs after the Second World War.
Hundreds of pilots did learn to fly the Corsair safely, though. Some even racked up high scores, like Gregory Boyington, who would be the top all-time Marine ace with 28 kills. For every Corsair lost, it shot down 11 enemy planes. That’s not a bad ratio. Eventually, the United States Navy would operate the Corsair off carriers to protect the fleet from kamikazes.
The plane was the “star” of the 1970s TV series “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” in which actor Robert Conrad portrayed Major Boyington in a highly fictionalized VMF-214. The dogfight scenes from the TV movie pilot, and the episodes following, are impressive to watch.
The film below gives would-be Corsair pilots a rundown on how to fly the plane. Handling the plane takes some learning, and some of the procedures are intricate, but as the narrator points out, “There is nothing about the Corsair that good pilot technique can’t handle.”