News: Last A-4 restored for Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum
Story by Pfc. Raquel Barraza
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. – In 1960 a young second lieutenant, Bob Butcher, was at his first operational flying assignment with Marine Attack Squadron 242. He was flying a McDonnell Douglas A-4D Skyhawk with less than nine hours of flight time on it and felt a little intimated, but enjoyed every moment of it.
Now, after more than fifty years, retired Maj. Gen. Butcher is a board of director’s chairman of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation that supports the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum. The museum restored the aircraft he flew for more than thirty years.
On July 21, the museum unveiled the restored A-4 Skyhawk. It was the last one built before McDonnell Douglas discontinued manufacturing this aircraft.
The “Easter Egg” A-4M Skyhawk, nicknamed for its unique color and design, was made specifically for the Marine Corps as a close air support platform.
Steve Smith, a curator with the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum and Austin, Texas, native, was part of the team that spent more than three months on the restoration of the last A-4.
“The Marine Corps has a long history with the A-4,” said Smith. “It was first introduced in the late ‘50s early ‘60s.”
It is important that these aircraft are restored so they can tell the story of Marine Corps aviation. They tell the story of the pilots, the crew and all the others who worked with the A-4, added Smith.
A lot of time and effort goes into restoring aircraft so they look as they did when they first came off the assembly line.
“What takes up the most time is all the research that goes into it,” said Smith. “We want it to be exact, all the way down to the accurate shade of blue they used. It can take from five minutes to five days [to match colors].”
Butcher knows the importance of restoring and sharing these aircraft with others.
“It a wonderful feeling that every day I drive to work and see the A-4s and see people who have never flown, but they get to enjoy them as well,” said Butcher.
Restoring and sharing the story of Marine Corps aviation is what the museum prides itself on. Both Butcher and Smith have their reasons to share the story whether that is to inform or inspire.
“If I could go back and fly one more time I’d fly the A-4,” said Butcher. “You didn’t fly it – you strapped it on like it was a part of you. It was like I was home.”
Displaying the A-4 at the museum marks another chapter in Marine Corps aviation history. Smith and Butcher are proud to be part of this chapter and its restoration.