The “Bad Kitty” Backstory
The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation saw the jet age coming and started producing the F9F Panther jet in 1947. But with the Tigercat, Grumman was not ready to give up on piston-driven innovation. The company gave the United States Navy not just its first twinengine fighter but also a fighter that could launch and land from Midway carriers. Grumman delivered a plane powered by a 2800 HP
Pratt & Whitney engine, and at the time, it outperformed all existing fighters. The Tigercat was big, but it compacted neatly with retractable wings, wheels, and nose landing gear. It could take off quickly with 3,000 pounds of weaponry, four 20mm cannons, and four .50-caliber machine guns, and it could reach speeds of 450mph.
“Bad Kitty” flew for only 46 hours and then went to the infamous Litchfield “graveyard” in Arizona, where most of the Tigercats sat waiting for the scrapper. Sis Q Flying Service purchased “Bad Kitty” and a few other ’Cats relatively inexpensively and then fit them with belly tanks that held fire retardant. After winning the 1962 U.S. Forest Service competition, Sis Q sent the planes to Oregon and California. “Bad Kitty” saw more than 1,300 hours as a firefighter.
“Bad Kitty” is today one of the rarest warbirds on record, as fewer than 20 Tigercats were salvaged from Litchfield and, to date, only six are in flying condition. The Historic Flight Foundation acquired “Bad Kitty” in 2003 and gave the plane what it deserved: a full restoration.