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Old A-4L Skyhawks Never Die. They Just Keep Coming Back For More

Take a Ride Down History Lane In an A-4L Skyhawk

Douglas A-4 Skyhawks have been proliferating in civilian use for some time now. One of the companies that is restoring and flying these former military jets is Sky Resources. They have taken several former United States Navy (USN) and United States Marine Corps (USMC) Skyhawks and restored them for various civilian uses including aerial photography, use by government contractors like DRAKEN International and Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) as aggressor simulation aircraft, and airshow performers. Many of these Skyhawks are single-seat A-4L variants.

A-4Ls are former Naval Air Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve A-4C model Skyhawks that were upgraded during the latter stages of the Vietnam War. Due to attrition of the fleet A-4E and A-4F models it became necessary to swap the standard A-4C Wright J65 turbojet engine with an uprated version of the same core engine, add the dorsal avionics “hump” from the A-4F model Skyhawk, and provide kits to add TA-4F leading edge slats to 100 USN and USMC A-4Cs to bring them up to ersatz A-4F standards. The first A-4C modification to the A-4L standard was flown on August 21st 1969. A-4Ls were to equip two carrier air wings (CVWs) if force levels or attrition required additional fleet A-4 airframes aboard USN attack carriers (CVAs). The A-4Ls were replaced primarily by newer Skyhawk variants as they rotated from fleet to reserve squadrons.

A-4L BuNo 147761 pictured at AMARG before service with Malaysia.

Several surplus A-4L aircraft were later reworked to A-4PTM standards for use by Malaysia. When Malaysia finally phased them out of service in 1999 several of those airframes returned to America and were placed in storage at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Tuscon in Airzona. The Skyhawk featured in the video, Bureau Number (BuNo) 147761, saw service with USMC Attack Squadron 124 (VMA-124) Checkerboards based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Memphis during the early 1970s before she was reworked to A-4PTM standards, sold to Malaysia who flew her until the late 1970s, spent some time at AMARG, and was subsequently acquired and restored to operational status by Sky Resources.

A-4E Skyhawk of VMA-124 pictured at NAS Memphis.

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.