Last in a line
of Grumman biplane fighters the first F3F flew in 1936.
It stayed in fleet service until 1940 - the year
before the Pearl Harbor attack.
In 1938, 81 F3F-2’s were ordered and used to equip
marine squadrons and U.S.S. Enterprise squadrons.
One other version was built - the F3F-3. It had
some minor differences and deliveries continued through
mid 1939. By
the end of 1941 when we entered World War II, there were
none left in operational use, although many could still
be found at shore stations and in training roles.
In the 1970’s,
there was only one flyable F3F left in the world.
Unfortunately, because of a loose fuel cap, the
pilot and passenger were forced to bail out when it caught
fire during a roll. It was a two-seat trainer version and was owned by Doug Champlin,
of the Champlin Fighter Museum in Mesa, Arizona. Doug longed for the day that he could find someone to
rebuild the pieces back to a flying aircraft.
In the late eighties, he approached Herb Tischler
in Ft. Worth, Texas about doing the job.
Herb indicated that it would be more cost effective
to build up 4 or 5 because of the tooling costs involved.
Doug did some research and recovered 3 F3F-2 crashed
wrecks from the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands.
All of the original pieces were gathered up, drawings
were procured and tooling was built in Texas.
Using some of the components from the wrecks, Herb
and his crew built up the 4 aircraft over a period of
Having just missed out on the original
deal, Kermit always hoped that one day he would be able
to acquire one.
In 1990, Tom Friedkin, who ended up with 3 of the
F3-F’s, contacted Kermit and asked if he wanted to sell
one of his Grumman Ducks.
Kermit did not, but he just happened to know that
the San Diego Air and Space Museum indicated that they
might want to sell theirs. Kermit quickly purchased it and a trade was made.
Kermit flew the aircraft back from Chino, California
in February of 2001.
Raising and lowering the landing gear on this aircraft
is a manual operation and a little awkward.
Normally the pilot flies with his left hand on
the throttle and his right hand on the stick.
To raise the landing gear on take-off, the pilot
must take his left hand off the throttle, grab the control
stick and begin flying with it. At that point, his right hand is free to switch a gear lever
located on the right side of the cockpit to the 'up' position.
The pilot then grabs the gear crank handle with
his right hand and cranks the gear to the 'up' position
after 26 turns!
To get the gear down, the process is reversed but
there is more time and the process is not as hectic.