- Historic Sites
A-1 (AD) Skyraider
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A-1 (AD) Skyraider
Creator:Douglas Aircraft Company
"The airplane that became the AD (later A-1) Skyraider evolved from a Navy decision in 1943 to combine the dive-bombing and torpedo missions in one aircraft. Built around a barrel-like fuselage, it possessed rigid lines that made it anything but graceful in appearance, but emanated power and could carry 8,000 lb. of ordnance, more than a World War II B-17 bomber. First flown on 18 March 1945, Skyraiders entered fleet service the following year and no aviator that flew one then and later would forget the experience of taking to the air for the first time. ""My first impression was that I was in for the ride of my life. I was surrounded by noise and vibration...,"" recalled one. ""That first flight behind a 3350 radial all alone was something to behold.""
The ""Able Dog"" or ""Spad,"" as the Skyraider was called, earned its stellar reputation as one of the finest attack aircraft ever built in the skies over Korea, where Navy and Marine Corps ADs logged 57,244 flights totaling 150,804.8 flight hours. Their missions were varied, from attacking heavily defended industrial targets like power plants and bridges to knocking out the Hwachon Dam with aerial torpedoes to earning the affection of many a grunt with its close air support capabilities. Operations in Korea also reflected the versatility of the Skyraider, the platform being modified to conduct a host of missions including electronic countermeasures and night attack. In combat, the AD demonstrated that it could return to base despite severe damage time and again during the war as evidenced on one flight on which Ensign John Higgins of Attack Squadron (VA) 729 took a round in his canopy and returned to land on the carrier Antietam (CV 36), the landing signal officer giving him guidance over the radio due to the fact that the shattered canopy allowed for no forward visibility. Upon landing, the lucky aviator found a five-inch long piece of shrapnel lodged in the headrest of his seat.
In the years following the Korean War, Skyraiders continued to serve the fleet in multiple roles, the roar of their engines increasingly surrounded by the thunder of jets on carrier decks. Some AD pilots trained for the possibility of nuclear war, flying so-called Sandblower missions, long-range flights to deliver nuclear bombs at low altitude that involved such an extended amount of time in the cockpit that aviators nicknamed them ""Butt Busters."" By the time of the Vietnam War, the A-4 Skyhawk was increasingly the mainstay of the Navy's carrier-based attack arsenal, though Navy Skyraiders dropped bombs in Southeast Asia until 1968, when the increasingly sophisticated antiaircraft defenses proved to hazardous for the slow Spads. . The Navy continued operating electronic countermeasures versions of the Skyraider until 1972 and the Air Force employed them on search and rescue and air commando missions until that year as well, turning over its remaining aircraft to the South Vietnamese Air Force. All told 3,180 Skyraiders rolled off the Douglas assembly line."
Length: 38 ft., 10 in.; Height 15 ft., 8 in.; Wingspan: 50 ft.
Location:1750 Radford Blvd., Pensacola, Florida 32508