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.
"Why A-4s Rule the Furball!"
|Dave Dollarhide demonstrates Skyhawk's Roll Rate
From A to M, the last of the Best, A-4M Skyhawk BuNo 160264
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.
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.
Dave “Whizzer” White, DDS., Skyhawk Association Founder. comments on the Skyhawk & VC-8 Retirement.
1608 Jimmie Davis Highway
Bossier City, LA 71112
22 August 2003
Re: Skyhawk Retirement
Commander, Thomas J. McDonough, USN
Commanding Officer Fleet Composite Squadron Eight
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