Operation: Western, Central and Eastern USA
Wing Span: 27' 6"
Length: 40' 4"
Height: 15' 0"
Max Speed: 670 mph
Gross Weight: 24,500 lbs
Power Plant: Pratt & Whitney J52-P-8
Armament: Two 20-mm cannon. Up to 9,155
pounds of weapons on five external hardpoints.
Collings Foundation's Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk
Collings Foundation is the owner and operator of
this Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk(BuNo 153524), which is
available for airshows, flybys, film.
They are able to give experience flights to non pilots
and also have an FAA approved flight training program.
Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk, construction #13590,was
delivered to the U.S. Navy and accepted into the
inventory on July 24, 1967. The aircraft was assigned
Bureau Number 153524.
“524” was immediately assigned to VF-126 at Miramar
NAS. In 1967 the Skyhawk was being phased out of fleet
as the main attack aircraft, VA 126, an A-4 fleet
instrument training squadron known as the Fighting
Seahawks was re-designated VF-126 Bandits. VF-126 began
flying the adversary mission for the west coast from
Miramar in April 1967. They were tasked to provide
adversary training and continued to use the Skyhawk in
that role because of its small size, exceptional
maneuverability and smokeless engine until the squadron
was disestablished in 1994. For a short time the Naval
Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) was attached to VF-126
until August 1972. Top Gun handled graduate air combat
maneuvering courses for Naval pilots while VF-126
handled the “day to day” adversary role, supporting west
coast F-4 and F-14 squadrons.
From July of 1967 to September 1967, “524” was flown
regularly accumulating 66.9 hours of flight time in that
short period. On September 9, “524” was damaged in a
ground accident. Records indicate that severe damage to
the nose area of the aircraft occurred necessitating
repairs to the nose gear and forward fuselage structure.
This repair took 8 months and the aircraft was not
returned to service until June of 1968.
“524” continued to fly with VF-126 until April of
1976. In the nearly ten years since its assignment to
VF-126 Bandits, the squadron had flown the aircraft for
The aircraft began its new duties in support of the
National Parachute Test Range at Naval Air Facility El
Centro immediately after being transferred from VF-126.
While”524’s” usage with the NPTR is unclear at this
time, the NPTR was the hub of research focused toward
aeronautical escape system testing, evaluation, and
design. The aircraft was assigned to the NPTR from
April, 1976 until January, 1979. 524 was flown sparingly
while assigned to the NPTR accumulating only 275 flight
hours during the period.
Although the TA-4F was assigned to the National
Parachute Test Range the actual controlling authority
was the Research Development Test and Evaluation Office
(RDT&E). This controlling authority transferred TA-4F
BuNo 153524 to the Naval Air Test Center at NATC
Patuxent River, Maryland. The aircraft was assigned to
the weapons test squadron. “524” was utilized to test a
variety of weapons and equipment while with the unit. It
operated in this capacity from January 1979 until June
1983. While assigned to weapons test,“524” accumulated
958 flight hours.
Upon completion of its assignment in weapons test,
“524” was assigned to the National Test Pilots School
also located at Pax River in July of 1983. The aircraft
was officially transferred to the Commander, Naval Air
Systems Command as the controlling agency.
“524” was used as a flight test evaluation aircraft,
often carrying data packages and rear cockpit camera
systems to document flight instruments. The aircraft was
also used as a TPS student syllabus aircraft. It was one
of 4 TA-4s assigned to the TPS. “524” continued in this
capacity until August 5, 1994. All four of the TPS TA-4s
assigned to the TPS were flown to the Aircraft
Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Tucson, Arizona.
At this time BuNo 153524 and her sister ships were
considered excess to U.S. Navy requirements. “524” had
completed her Naval service with a total of 6496.6
The Collings Foundation was allocated a Douglas TA-4
Skyhawk through Congressional action in October 2000.
After looking at various aircraft that were held in
storage at AMARC BuNo 153524 was selected because the
overall condition of the aircraft and its low airframe
hours. The aircraft was removed from storage at AMARC,
Tucson exactly one year after the legislation was signed
into law. Negotiations with Navy attorneys were
laborious as we struggled to complete the Deed of Gift
and to transfer missing components. After four years of
painful delays, the transfer of the needed components
was finally completed in the spring and summer of 2004.
The Skyhawk was disassembled in Tucson late this
summer and shipped by truck to the facilities of AvCraft
in Myrtle Beach, SC. It finally arrived on October 3,
2004. Reassembly and return to flight inspections along
with needed repairs were begun immediately upon arrival.
To expedite the process, it was decided to involve noted
A-4 specialists from Safe Air Ltd. in New Zealand to add
their expertise to the process of making it a
restoration with the high quality the Collings
Foundation expects of its flying collection. Specialists
Ian Ginders, Norm Tse, and Dave Meikle reassembled the
aircraft and completed both Phase A and B inspections.
SafeAir is acknowledged as being the world’s foremost
Skyhawk experts and combined with help from AvCraft’s
speciality shops; the TA-4J project was on schedule for
engine runs by December 2004. We are thankful to Ben
Bartel, President of AvCraft for his generous
underwriting of the project.
First flight since “524”s initial retirement by the
Navy was accomplished December 15, 2004 at Myrtle Beach,
South Carolina with Captain Bert Zeller (USNR) at the
controls. The flight was made without incident and a few
minor squawks were addressed upon landing.
TA-4F Skyhawk BuNo 153524 then went to Av Source
West, Midland, Texas, where it underwent repainting. Av
Source West replicated the paint scheme carried by the
aircraft of H&MS 11, the Playboys, based at DaNang
during the Vietnam war. Our thanks to Hentzen Coatings
of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for supplying the primer and
paint to complete this project.
The Playboys were an all-volunteer fast forward air
control unit that existed from January 1969 to September
14, 1970, when the Playboy mission was cancelled due to
the phasing out of American assets. During the time the
Playboys existed, they directed other fighter aircraft
in support of the ground troops and in identifying and
destroying enemy assets moving along the Ho Chi Minh
The total number of Playboy aircrew numbered 57
during the life of the program. The Playboys worked
closely with the USAF F100F Misty FAC pilots who
occasionally flew in the TA-4Fs. This close association
with the Mistys contributed significantly to the Marines
fighting against North Vietnamese regulars along the
Laotian/South Vietnam border. Considered by many to be
one of the most successful operations of the Vietnam war
the Playboys helped to identify enemy supply areas,
located and destroyed mortar and rocket positions, and
provided communications links between strike aircraft
and ground troops.
Due to a shortage of aircrewmen and the professional
reputation they had gained, the Playboys began to draw
pilots from the A-4, F-4, and A-6 communities in MAG-12
During the Playboys’ existence three aircraft were
lost due to enemy fire. Jolly Green Giant helicopters
rescued all three crews. In nearly one year of combat
action the only Playboy lost was Lt. Col. Larry “Robbie”
Robinson. He was flying an F-4B Phantom while escorting
a Playboy TA-4.
The Collings Foundation is proud to honor the memory
of all Vietnam Veterans by returning the Playboy colors
to the sky. Skyhawk BuNo 153524 joins the Foundation’s
F-4D Phantom II and UH-1E (VMO-2 and VMO-6) in the
Vietnam Memorial Flight for the air show season. The
Skyhawk also participates in the Collings Foundation’s
TA-4J / F-4 Phantom II Flight Training Program at their
P.O. Box 248
Stow, MA 01775
Phone: (978) 562-9182 or (978) 568-8924
Fax: (978) 568-8231
Please fill out your contact information
below if you are interested in contacting
the operator, or representative,
of this Warbird and you require more information for booking this
aircraft at your Airshow