Grumman F7F Tigercat

Operational History - Civil

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After Korea, the Tigercat was rapidly phased out of service and many surviving examples were flown to NAF Litchfield Park in Arizona for storage and disposal. The science of aerial fire fighting was developing and operators could see that the Tigercat, with its vast reserves of power, might make an ideal aerial tanker - plus the fact it was available at very cheap prices

At first, operators did not exactly know the best way to modify the small force of Tigercats to carry fire retardant. Kreitzberg Aviation carried out the first conversion with modified long-range fuel tanks carried on the craft's hard points beneath the wing. Nearing the target, the pilot could flip a switch which opened doors on the tanks and released the chemicals. Testing found this to be a fairly ineffective method of fighting fires.

The next modification was much more successful, albeit marring the Tigercat's graceful lines. Since the Tigercat did not have a bomb bay like the majority of other aerial tankers, a modification was made that attached a large 800-gal tank to the bottom of the fuselage. With doors in the bottom of the tank a very satisfactory drop pattern could be achieved and 15 Tigercats were modified into fire bombers.

One such Tigercat is F7F-3P BuNo 80483/N6178C which became the subject of the wing tank modification mentioned above. This plane was obtained by George Kreitzberg (having only 46-hr flight time!) but it soon passed to Cal-Nat Airways at Grass Valley, California, where it became Tanker 43 with the bulbous fuselage tank. From that point, it went on to fly with Sis-Q Flying Service and Macavia International Corp. In the mid-1980s, the surviving Tigercats were retired.


Air tankers