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XFD-1 / FH-1 Phantom

The McDonnell FH-1 Phantom was the first all-jet airplane ordered into production by the Navy and the Navy's first airplane to fly 500 mph.

In January 1943, the Navy's decision to build an all jet-powered, carrier-based aircraft led to a contract award to McDonnell Aircraft Company, St. Louis, Missouri. McDonnel had never designed an aircraft for the Navy, and the Navy had never before sought a jet aircraft.

Following the procedure of the day, the Navy assigned a manufacturer's letter to McDonnell for its incorporation into the aircraft's designation. At the time, all usable letters were in use, so the Navy-almost presciently-assigned McDonnell the letter D which was already used by Douglas.

The aircraft first flew on 26 January 1945. While a flight test accident destroyed the first of the three XFD-1s in November 1945, the second was already flying and the program continued with only limited delay.

On July 21, 1946, operating from the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, a McDonnell XFD-1 Phantom became the first jet-propelled combat aircraft to operate from an American aircraft carrier.

The McDonnell XFD-1 Phantom of the late 1940s should not be confused with the Douglas XFD-1, a biplane of the 1930s. The first XFD-1 was a two-seat biplane fighter, of all-metal construction with fabric skinning. The FD competed with the F3U and the F12C. It was abandoned when the Navy decided against the continued development of two-seat fighters, and ordered scout-bombers instead. Only one was built.

On 6 June 1947 the letter was changed to H; the Phantom was first designated FD and later FH. The production version started service at the Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, Rhode Island in July 1947.

McDonnell built 62 Phantoms between 1945 and 1947, and by May 1948, the first all-jet squadron aboard a carrier was operational with FH-1 Phantoms on the USS Saipan. Phantoms also became the first jets assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps. After 1949, Phantoms flew with Naval Reserve units around the country.

There were several different model designations for the FH Phantom. The XFD-1 was an experimental version of the FD-1. The designation was never changed to XFH-1. The FD-1 was a production version. It was basically the same as the XFD-1 but with some redesign of the vertical tail structure. Designation was later changed to FH-1.

Phantoms were placed on display at the Marine Corps Aviation Museum in Quantico, Virginia, and at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:32:09 ZULU