F8F Bearcat

Considered the best performing piston fighter, the Bearcat replaced the F6F Hellcat. After the Battle of Midway, the US Navy recognized that a lightweight fighter with a superior climb rate would be a significantly valuable asset. Grumman responded with the compact Bearcat, weighting almost 2,000 lbs. less than the Hellcat. While it never saw combat duty during WWII, the Bearcat’s speed and agility made an excellent exhibition aircraft and it quickly replaced the Hellcat as the second featured aircraft of the Blue Angels.

The Erickson Collection’s Bearcat served with the Navy from 1948 to 1957. It became a photo recon aircraft in 1959. As a civilian plane it had a successful race career. In 1964 it won fourth place in Gold Unlimited in Reno. After its race career, it performed in airshows in Europe. In 1997 it came to the Heritage Flight Museum in Spokane, Washington and was restored to Navy combat specs. In September 2021, the Bearcat was acquired by the Erickson Aircraft Collection.