The HellCat F-6F like the Wildcat, was built by the American firm Grumman . It was produced in 12,275 copies from 1942 to 1945. A formidable fighter plane, 76% of Japanese losses are attributed to it, ie more than 6,000 planes. The Hellcat had a wingspan of 13.05 m and a length of 10.2 m . It was powered by a 2,000 hp Pratt and Whitney R-2800-10 engine, and could reach 605 km / h with a ceiling of 11,450 m . Its range was 1,755 km . This copy bought by France in 1950 had served in Indochina before being repatriated to Hyères in August 1954.
The true origin of its presence was revealed in 1999. The French Navy archives mention a ditching following an engine failure during an exercise consisting of flying in a landing configuration, in order to test the reactions of the aircraft. device at reduced speed.
But when Jean-Noël Duval, Patron of CIP Lavandou and inventor of the wreck, contacted pilot Jack Langin in July 1999, he told him the real reason for the presence of this plane under the sea: May 14, 1956 , young pilot, Jack Langin takes off for a training flight. Joined by another pilot, they have fun skimming over the sea . But a slight mistake makes him touch the surface. The engine stalls and Jack has no solution but to attempt a water landing, which he succeeds. He leaves the cockpit and will be recovered in his emergency dinghy. If he is telling the truth, his career is over before it even begins. This shameful accident led him to invent this story of engine failure before the Navy commission of inquiry, a plausible and unverifiable version which would have resulted in the ditching .