The F8F Bearcat was the final piston fighter produced by Grumman. The initial concept came from a meeting in 1943 with combat veterans from the Pacific theater
and Grumman Aircraft. The pilots emphasized the need
for maneuverability and climb rate to best combat Japanese
aircraft—specifically the Zero.
Because the most powerful engine at the time was the Pratt
& Whitney R-2800 and the Hellcat used the same powerplant,
the design focused on creating the smallest and lightest
airframe to mate with the engine, resulting in the Bearcat. It
was significantly smaller, faster, and lighter, and had a higher
climb rate than that of the Hellcat.
The design had several unique features. It was the first
carrier aircraft in the U.S. Navy to feature a bubble canopy.
The wide-track landing gear made for easier takeoffs and
landings. It also had a “knuckle” hinge feature that allowed the
struts to fold onto each other during retraction.
The initial prototypes and production aircraft had
breakaway wingtips when the aircraft exceeded 7. 5 Gs
to help reduce structural weight in the wings. This option
was impractical in the field and was later removed from
The Bearcat was too late to see action in World War II, but
did see combat with French forces in 1946. In addition to the
U.S. Navy and Marines, the Bearcat also flew in the Taiwanese
and South Vietnamese forces.
Similar to some of the designs I have done in the past, the
Bearcat is a continuation of my Fun Scale series. It is designed
with exacting outlines, but features a stick-and-tissue Free
Flight stringer look. It is an accurate-looking model of the full-scale aircraft, but with a lower wing loading for gentler flying.
The model features CAD-designed interlocking parts and is
built using plywood, light plywood, basswood, and balsa.
The motor is a Power 60 with an 80- to 90-amp ESC, and
a 5,000 6S LiPo battery. The design allows for an all-up flying
weight of 8 pounds, resulting in a wing loading of 23 to 24
ounces per square foot.
The prototype utilized a large, four-blade propeller from an
FMS 1,700mm P- 47, and main gear struts/tail wheel retract
from the FMS 1,700mm P- 51. The main gear retracts are
standard 90° 3. 5 kg units, but 85° would make for a more
The plans are currently available from Model Aviation and
the AMA Plans Service. Should you choose not to cut the
36 Model Aviation APRIL 2017 www.ModelAviation.com
GRUMMAN F8F BEARCAT
BY DEREK MICKO | PHOTOS BY THE AUTHOR AND JOE BALABON
BUILD YOUR OWN ELECTRIC-POWERED FIGHTER