Although Vought Aircraft Industries is a relatively new company that incorporated in May 2000, it is the beneficiary of an industry legacy going back to the first producers of military aircraft in the United States. The company’s name extends to the entity founded by aviation pioneer, Chance Milton Vought.
The Early Years of Aviation
Aviator and engineer Chance Milton Vought established his own firm on Long Island, N.Y., in a former shoe factory. Taught to fly in 1910 by pioneer aviator Max T. Lillie in a Wright B pusher-type biplane, Vought served as an instructor but went on to become an aeronautical engineer for the Wright-Martin company.
In 1917, with Birdseye B. Lewis, Vought organized the Lewis & Vought Corporation. That same year his first design, the VE-7, was built. A number of VE-7s were delivered to the Army before World War I ended and proved to be one of the most popular and widely used two-seater advanced training aircraft of the era. Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, a founder of what was to become the U.S. Air Force, noted that the VE-7 outperformed the best fighters used in World War I.
A later version of Vought’s VE-7 Bluebird, the VE-7SF, made the first takeoff from a U.S. Navy carrier (the USS Langley, a converted collier) on October 17, 1922. From 1922 until the retirement of the A-7Es in 1991, Chance Vought’s early design influences on military aircraft were seen in the Navy’s carrier-based power.
Chance Vought also introduced the Corsair name into aviation when he christened his O2U-1 observation biplane in 1926. The O2U-1 produced by the Chance Vought Corporation, Long Island City, New York, was the first of the famed Corsairs. Designed around the Pratt and Whitney Wasp engine, the aircraft established four world speed and altitude records.
Among the more than 15,000 aircraft produced by Chance Vought’s legacy companies, some notable ones include the amphibian scout/observation aircraft, the 0S2U Kingfisher, in which Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker was rescued from Pacific waters early in World War II; the F4U gull-winged Corsair, which achieved an 11 to 1 kill ratio against enemy aircraft in World War II; and the F-8 Crusader jet, the Navy’s first operational single-engine supersonic fighter that served for 31 years as both a fighter and a photo-reconnaissance airplane.
In addition to its historic role in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the F-8 received recognition for several other accomplishments, including a world speed record in 1956, the first ocean-to-ocean transcontinental flight between aircraft carriers and the first supersonic transcontinental dash above Mach 1. The pilot of that reconnaissance flight was U.S. Marine Maj. John Glenn, who became the first American astronaut to orbit the earth and later as a U.S. senator. The F-8 also won the Collier Trophy for its contributions to the advancement of aviation science as the first carrier-based fighter capable of speeds exceeding 1,000 mph. The Collier Trophy is awarded annually by the National Aeronautic Association and is widely considered to be the most prestigious aviation award in the United States.
During the early ‘50s, the F-7U, also produced by the Chance Vought Aircraft Company, established a place in aviation history as the first U.S. jet fighter designed from the beginning to use afterburners. It was also the first Navy swept-wing jet, the first tailless aircraft to go into production for U.S. military use, the first Navy fighter with a steerable nose wheel and the first U.S. airplane to have supersonic release of bombs in a dive.
Throughout its history, the “Vought” name has been synonymous with aviation firsts, including many one-of-a-kind and experimental aircraft. One of the more unusual was the XF5U-1, an early vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) design built in 1948. Only two of these aircraft were built by Chance Vought Aircraft. Although they were never flown, the smaller V-173 prototype did fly. It gained its nickname, the Flying Pancake, because of its flattened, rounded shape.
In 1964, the XC-142A produced by Vought Aeronautics, a division of LTV Aerospace Corporation, became the world’s first vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) airplane capable of performing an operational role. At the time, it was the largest successful V/STOL aircraft design with a tilt wing. Five of these aircraft made 488 flights, accumulating more than 600 flight hours.
The last aircraft of the early Chance Vought heritage was the A-7 Corsair II attack aircraft. In 1965, the first model, the A-7A, flew 25 days ahead of schedule. From 1965 to 1983 more than 1,500 A-7s in several models were produced by LTV Aerospace Corporation (after 1976 under the name Vought Corporation). Vought A-7s flew in combat roles in every campaign from Vietnam to Desert Storm.
From the days of wooden and cloth biplanes to today’s advanced composite aircraft, the aviation industry has seen many dramatic developments. Likewise, the Lewis & Vought Corporation of 1917 eventually lead to the establishment of several companies where this aircraft heritage was preserved.
Among the heritage companies were Chance Vought Corporation, Chance Vought Aircraft (a division of United Aircraft Corporation), Vought-Sikorsky, and Chance Vought Aircraft Inc. Chance Vought Aircraft merged in 1961 with Ling-Temco and in 1965 the LTV Aerospace Corporation was formed as a subsidiary of Ling-Temco-Vought Inc. Later, that conglomerate became the LTV Corporation. During the years from 1961 to 1992, LTV’s aerospace and defense business was known by a number of other names, including Vought Aeronautics (a division of LTV Aerospace Corporation), Vought Systems Division, Vought Aero Products Division, LTV Aircraft Products Group, and the Aircraft Division of the LTV Aerospace and Defense Company.
In August 1992, as one of the terms of its emergence from bankruptcy, LTV sold certain assets of its aircraft division to The Carlyle Group, a Washington, D.C.,-based private investment company, and Northrop Corporation, an aerospace and defense company. This transfer of assets resulted in the independently operated Vought Aircraft Company. The Carlyle Group in 1994 sold its 51 percent interest to Northrop Grumman after the Northrop and Grumman corporations merged that year. In July 2000, Northrop Grumman sold the majority of its aerostructures business assets to The Carlyle Group in a transaction valued at approximately $1.2 billion. As an independent company, Vought Aircraft Industries values the opportunity to use a respected name in the aerospace industry.
In 2003, Vought Aircraft Industries purchased The Aerostructures Corporation based in Nashville, Tenn., whose heritage includes famous aircraft such as the Vultee Vengeance dive bomber.
Along with the numerous name variations used by the Chance Vought legacy companies, there have been several relocations of facilities since the original company’s first days in the shoe factory on Long Island. The first move of the Vought Company in 1930 to Hartford, Conn., took place just before the death of Chance Vought at age 40. In 1939, after the Vought Company’s merger with Sikorsky, the business moved to Stratford, Conn. Chance Vought Aircraft’s later move to Dallas in 1948 was the largest industrial move in the nation’s history at that time. More then 1,500 people moved to Texas to occupy the former North American plant on West Jefferson Boulevard alongside Temco. After a name change in 1960 to Chance Vought Corporation, the former Chance Vought Aircraft business was merged with Ling-Temco Electronics. By 1964, the aircraft business had been reorganized and included in the LTV Aerospace Corporation, a subsidiary of Ling-Temco-Vought, Inc., later LTV Corporation. In 1968, a second manufacturing facility, designed for large commercial assemblies, opened in Grand Prairie, Texas, adjacent to the Missiles Division of LTV.
LTV Aerospace began shifting its legacy aircraft business from the role of prime contractor to that of a major subcontractor with prime capabilities. During LTV’s ownership major structures were produced for such programs as the McDonnell Douglas DC-10, the S-3A anti-submarine warfare aircraft, the B-1B Air Force bomber and the B-2 Stealth bomber. In addition, LTV began production of significant portions of the Boeing 747, 757 and 767. Vought Aircraft Industries currently produces structures for all Boeing commercial aircraft now in production.
Today, Vought Aircraft Industries is a major subcontracting partner on many commercial and military aircraft programs -- from the U.S. Air Force C-17 and C-130J cargo jets to multiple Boeing and Airbus commercial aircraft and Gulfstream business jets.
Vought Aircraft Industries continues to expand its advanced manufacturing and technological competitiveness, maintaining prime contractor skills and capabilities in a support-partner role.
Vought Aircraft Industries is positioned as a Tier I Integrator that designs, produces and delivers large-scale complex aerostructures. The company’s key capabilities include:
Research and development
Design and tooling
Assembly and integration
These capabilities are best suited for the design and manufacture of wings, empennages, fuselage sections, control surfaces, nacelles and other structural components.