Pilot of Experimental 'Pogo' Aircraft Dies

The test pilot fearless (or crazy) enough to test the aptly-named Convair XFY Pogo experimental aircraft in 1954 has died.

J.F. Coleman passed away from natural causes earlier this month in Oceanside, CA - he was 95 years old. Mr. Coleman served as a dive-bomber pilot in the Pacific during World War II, and received a degree in aeronautical engineering after the war.

The Convair XFY Pogo was designed by Convair starting in 1951 after a request by the Navy for an aircraft capable of Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) capability. These aircraft could be kept aboard smaller ships, providing air cover and reconnaissance to convoys without the need of an aircraft carrier.

The Convair prototype was only ever flow by Coleman, and was practically totally experimental. In addition to the unusual take-off and landing orientation, the engine was a new design (with contra-rotating props driven by a jet engine) and the whole concept of VTOL was still in its infancy.

Although there was never a mishap during the test flights, they were not smooth sailing either; the Pogo was so light and aerodynamic that it was difficult to slow for landing, and in order to land Coleman had to turn around and look over his shoulder - he was not able to monitor instruments during this time.

An interview by the BBC is introduced and narrated by Coleman, and you can see some of the problems and challenges that he faced: