Skyhawks Forever

 

On June 12, 1952,

the U.S. Navy contracted with Douglas Aircraft Company of El Segundo, California, to build one prototype XA4D-1 Skyhawk attack aircraft. Literally "hand built," XA4D-1, BuNo 137812, was the first of an eventual 2,960 Skyhawks to roll off the Douglas Aircraft Company assembly line. Powered by a Curtiss-Wright J65-W-16A engine, it had a one-piece windscreen, no tail-hook or refueling probe; and the "sugar scoop" exhaust baffle was not yet conceived.


The first Skyhawk flight, flown by Douglas test pilot Robert Rahn, took place at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on June 22, 1954.

 


"Why A-4s Rule the Furball!"
"There's hardly a combat mission that the A-4 Skyhawk hasn't flown, making it, in its new role, one tough old bird.

Every single person I've ever fought in one of these airplanes has died the first time I fought him. Every... single...one." Randy Clark brandishes a model of the A-4 Skyhawk and tells me how the half-century-old design can whup far newer aircraft: F/A-18 Hornets, F-14 Tomcats-maybe someday even F/A-22 Raptors and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

I need no convincing. In the 1970s, I'd flown in an A-4 variant, the two-seat TA-4J, at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Maryland's Patuxent River base. As an engineering student learning how to size up a fighter's combat performance, I'd experienced first-hand how this machine could out-hassle pretty well anything in the sky."

The Hotrod Squad by Graham Chandler
"Why A-4s Rule the Furball!"
June/July 2004 Issue of Air and Space Magazine

Dave Dollarhide demonstrates Skyhawk's Roll Rate


From A to M, the last of the Best, A-4M Skyhawk BuNo 160264


Major General Leblanc on acceptance of last Skyhawk 27FEB1979

The incredible 25 year Skyhawk production run, which began in February 1954 when A-4A Skyhawk BuNo 137812 was rolled out for engine run-up, came to an end on February 27, 1979 when the U.S. Navy accepted A-4M BuNo 160264 from McDonnel-Douglas. It was the 2,960th versatile and rugged Skyhawk manufactured by Douglas and by McDonnel Douglas and was delivered to VMA-331 based at Cherry Point, NC.

Marine Corp Lt.Col. M.R. (Sid) Snedecker, CO of VMA-331. Also in attendance were U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Robert P. Coogan, commander of Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet and U.S. Marine Corp Major General William R. Maloney, commanding general of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS El Toro.

Shortly after delivery to VMA-331 BuNo 160264 was transferred to NWC China Lake and subsequently spent time with NATC Patuxent River (7T-305 in 1985), with VX-5 (XE-15 in 1986) and with VMA-124 (QP-00 in 1990 & 1994) before being retired and transferred to the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, San Diego, CA, where she is on display in the markings of VMA-124, QP-00.

 


 

23 AUG 2003 - Last U.S.N. Active Duty Skyhawk Unit:


The "Redtails" of Composite Squadron Eight (VC-8) were the last U.S. Navy active duty unit to operate the Skyhawk on a regular basis. Flying the TA-4J out of Ofstie Field, Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; the "T" Birds were equipped with special electronics gear. VC-8 Skyhawks provided utility missions in support of fleet operations, close air support training for Marine, Army, and Special Force units, and operated in an adversary role in support of the Tomcat and Hornet RAGs. The "Redtails" TA-4Js were retired from active service in May 2003. The active duty life of the venerable Skyhawk in U.S. Navy fleet service began in late September 1956 and spanned more than 47½ years.
Note that today, several civilian companies are utilizing the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk to perform many of the duties, and more, that were previously performed by units such as VC-8. See our "Civilian Skyhawks" page.



 

 

VC-8 TA-4J BuNo 158137.

The story of one of the last retired U.S.N. Skyhawks and the U.S.S Hornet Museum.

 


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Dave “Whizzer” White, DDS., Skyhawk Association Founder. comments on the Skyhawk & VC-8 Retirement.

 

SKYHAWK ASSOCIATION
1608 Jimmie Davis Highway
Bossier City, LA 71112
www.a4skyhawk.org


22 August 2003
Re: Skyhawk Retirement

Commander, Thomas J. McDonough, USN
Commanding Officer Fleet Composite Squadron Eight

Dear Skipper,

Thank you for shouldering the bittersweet task of striking our beloved little lady from the List of active US Navy Aircraft. You won’t find a Scooter pilot who doesn’t have a story told from the heart about their time in the A-4.

“…she was born in the fertile mind of a singular man. Designed, built and tested by men whose skills, experience and opinions won wars and plotted movements of nations. She was nurtured in the hands of the best the Navy had to offer and demonstrated her loyalty to those who flew her with a tangible affection carried for a lifetime."

With a smile she has been compared to a high school sweetheart – “Fast” enough to be interesting but slow enough to enjoy the ride…! She was there for many ‘firsts.’ For most she was our first FLEET aircraft. Many pilots logged their first carrier landing in an A-4 which set them apart and above any other form of military aviation. In the 1960’s she shared our fear for the unknown of war but when launched from ships into battle she became both our protector and companion in the transition from observer to warrior. It might have been her first time as well and like her pilots not all returned. Who doesn’t have a picture standing beside the aircraft with their name painted on the side – another first. Whether a first or a routine task, together, we did it well for over fifty years.

She has served with other nations where the language was, at first, unfamiliar but would fade as humps and lumps and bumps were added, probes bent and shortened to fit the mission of her new country. Regardless of the dialect a trust soon formed and soon the personalities of the airplane and the pilot would merge and once more she was effectively carrying out a nation’s policy.

Over time a rallying cry emerged that overcomes language barriers and politics. A phrase that ties all members of her team into one family. A simple phrase recognized by all who flew her and best explains the almost mystic feeling between the aircraft and her pilots. Please raise a glass for all of us who couldn’t be at the ceremony but who have slipped the surly bonds of earth in an A-4 to dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings and become a part of A-4’s FOREVER.

God bless our nation, our navy and the memory of the A-4 Skyhawk.

A-4’s FOREVER, Whiz!

Dave “Whizzer” White, DDS
Founder, Skyhawk Association

 

SKYHAWK FIRST FLIGHT = 22 JUNE 1954

On June 12, 1952, the U.S. Navy contracted with Douglas Aircraft Company of El Segundo, California, to build one prototype XA4D-1 Skyhawk attack aircraft.

Literally "hand built," XA4D-1, BuNo 137812, was the first of an eventual 2,960 Skyhawks to roll off the Douglas Aircraft Company assembly line. Powered by a Curtiss-Wright J65-W-16A engine, it had a one-piece windscreen, no tailhook or refueling probe, and the "sugar scoop" exhaust baffle was not yet conceived.

The first Skyhawk flight, flown by Douglas test pilot Robert Rahn, took place at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on June 22, 1954.

 
SKYHAWK - "FIRST & LAST" MILESTONES
updated 05 JUL 2010
FIRST LAST Event Remarks
21 JUN 52   Contract awarded for XA4D-1 Douglas Aircraft
26 JUL 52   Preliminary design begins Douglas Aircraft
13 OCT 52   Authority to Proceed Douglas Aircraft
01 FEB 54   XA4D-1 Rollout El Segundo Plant
22 JUN 54   First Flight - Bob Rahn XA4D-1 at Edwards
14 AUG 54   First production A4D-1 flight (A-4A)
OCT 54   Authority to Proceed , A4D-2 (A-4B)
12 SEP 55   First Carrier Trials U.S.S. Ticonderoga
15 OCT 55   Speed Record - 500Kilometer LT. Gordon Gray 695.163 MPH at Edwards
26 MAR 56   First A4D-2 (A-4B) flight Test Pilot Dru Wood
27 SEP 56   First fleet delivery of A4D-1 VA-72 Quonset Point RI
29 SEP 56   First Delivery A4D-1 to the Marine Corps VMA-224 - BuNo139920
26 OCT 56   BuNo.139935 first A-4 declared fleet ready VA-72 Quonset Point RI
01 SEP 57   Fleet Delivery of A4D-2 (A-4B)
00 OCT 57   First WestPac Deployment of A-4 VA-93
00 JAN 58   First "E"s earned by A-4s VA-34
00 APR 58   First Jet Landing on Ranger VA-12 with A4Ds
21 AUG 58   First Flight A4D-2N (A-4C)
00 OCT 58   First Deployment 300 Gallon Drop Tanks A4D-2 & VA12 aboard USS Forrestal
00 OCT 58   First Night Quals in Night Air/Air Refueling A4D-2 & VA12 aboard USS Forrestal
00 OCT 58   First Buddystore & Standby Tanker A4D-2 & VA12 aboard USS Forrestal
00 JAN 59   U.S.S. Intrepid Landing Record A4D-2 of VA-106
00 JUL 59   First Skyhawk Trans-Atlantic with BuddyStore Marine Air Wing 2 - A4D-2s
00 SEP 59   First Operational Bullpup firing by a Skyhawk VA-34 in the Atlantic Fleet
01 FEB 60   Fleet Deliver of A4D-2N VMA-225
00 MAR 60   First delivery A4D-2 to Marine Corps VMA-225
00 APR 61   First Bullpup firing in Fleet Air Jacksonville Area VA-46
00 JUL 61   1000th Skyhawk rolls off the production line Douglas Aircraft
12 JUL 61   First Flight A4D-5 (A-4E)
  00 DEC 62 Last Delivery A-4C  
01 JAN 63   Deliver of A4D-5 (A-4E)
26 DEC 62   First unit to receive A-4E VA-23 Black Knights with A-4E
08 FEB 64   First Driver to get 100 landings in A-4E Dale Evans
04 AUG 64   First Skyhawk Raids into North Vietnam  
05 AUG 64   First Skyhawk lost to combat - Vietnam VA-144 BuNo149578
25 APR 65   Shrike Missile into combat via a Skyhawk VA-23 Black Knights with A-4E
01 JUN 65   First Skyhawk lands at Chu Lai, Vietnam BuNo147779, VMA-225, Col. J. Noble
30 JUN 65   First Flight TA-4E Quickly redesignated TA-4F
  01 APR 66 Production ended on A-4E  
01 MAY 66   First Fleet Deployment TA-4F VA-125 NAS Lemoore CA
31 AUG 66   First A-4F Flight converted "E"
01 NOV 67   First Skyhawk Unit equipped with Walleye VA-212 a/c modified for Walleye
11 MAR 67   First Walleye fired in combat VA-212 CO CDR H. Smith - SE Asia
01 MAY 67 01 MAY 67 MIG-17 Shootdown by a Skyhawk VA-76 LCDR Ted R. Swartz
00 JUN 67   Fleet Delivery A-4F  
19 JUL 67   First A-4G Flight Test Pilot Jim Stegman
21 JUL 67   First TA-4G Flight Test Pilot Jim Stegman
26-Jul-1967   First Delivery A4-G & TA-4G Produced for Australia
27 OCT 1967   First Flight of A-4H for Israel Test Pilot John Lane
17 DEC 68   First Flight TA-4J  
00 xxx 69   First Deployment TA-4J VT-17 NAS Kingsville TX
10 APR 70   First A-4M Flight Test Pilot Walt Harper
00 OCT 70   First "Production" A-4M BuNo.158148 VMA-324 MCAS Beaufort, SC
26 FEB 71   Fleet Delivery A-4M VMA-324 MCAS Yuma AZ
16 APR 71   Fleet Delivery A-4M VMA-324 MCAS Yuma AZ
  06 SEP 72 Last Skyhawk lost to combat - Vietnam VA-212 BuNo155021
  27 JAN 73 Last Skyhawk Bomb Dropped - Vietnam Col. John Caldas, CO VMA-311
00 SEP 73   Skyhawk selected for Blue Angel Duty  
00 xxx 74 00 xxx 86 Skyhawks fly with Blue Angels  
  00 DEC 75 Last USN A-4 Line Squadron disestablished  
  27 FEB 79 Last Production A-4 Delivered - BuNo160264 #2,960, a "Skyhawk II" A-4M to VMA-331
  27 FEB 90 Last A-4M Active Duty xferred to Reserve Unit VMA-211 xfers a/c to MAG-42
  22 JUN 94 A-4 retired from the USMC Reserves VMA-131
09 SEP 95   Skyhawk Association formed Tailhook at Reno
  00 SEP 99 TA-4 retired from VT-7  
  03 MAY 03 Last USN Active Duty Skyhawk Flight VC-8 TA-4J to Palm Springs Airport
  23 AUG 03 Formal Retirement of the Skyhawk - USN VC-8 Red Tails Deactivation NAS Oceana
       

 

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