Sunday, June 22, 2014

Heinemann's Hot Rod

From the mid 1950s to the 1980s, the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk served both the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps by lugging more than its fair share of things that go boom... and quite admirably, too. (Some have gone so far as to label it the greatest light bomber of all time.) In addition to moving mud the type also served in the equally hazardous training role and, after its retirement from USN and USMC combat units, continued to fly in utility and adversary roles. The A-4 has also flown under the flags of many a foreign nation.

The A-4, or A4D as it was originally designated, was a pretty small bird... likened to a toy by some, which lead to a number of nicknames such as 'Bantam Bomber' and 'Tinker Toy Bomber'. It was also dubbed 'Scooter', apparently on account of its long nose gear strut. But regardless of how small it may have been, or how toyish it may have looked, the Skyhawk was a very nimble airplane... not as fast as some other types, but very quick and maneuverable. This lead to another moniker... 'Heinemann's Hot Rod'... a tip-o-the-hat to the little jet's designer, Ed Heinemann.

We'd initially intended to present a longish feature article on the A-4 today, but instead will spread it out over a few installments... beginning with this trio of photos showing a couple'a early Scooters.

June 22nd, 1954... sixty years ago today... the first XA4D-1, BuNo. 137812 rolls down the runway at Edwards AFB for its maiden flight.

Project 914 Archives

October 15th, 1955... Lt. Gordon 'Gordo' Gray in the cockpit of YA4D-1 BuNo. 137820 during startup at Edwards AFB.

John Gray collection via

YA4D-1 BuNo. 137820 during flight testing out of Edwards AFB circa 1955.

John Gray collection via

More Scooters to come!

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