Historic Navy Aircraft Gets Restored Ahead of Memorial Day

May 24, 2024
The project was in honor of Marine Attack Squadron 223, which flew the A-4 until 1987.

Artisans at the Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) recently embarked on a unique journey to restore a piece of aviation history, a retired Douglas A-4M Skyhawk, for display at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, according to a U.S. Navy news release.

This restoration project was not just about bringing an old aircraft back to life, but also about meticulously recreating its original look through a detailed painting process.

The restoration began with the artisans at FRCE's Aircraft Clean and Paint shops, who are typically tasked with priming and painting each aircraft that passes through the facility. This time, however, they had the rare opportunity to work on a platform that hadn't been serviced by the depot in over two decades.

Kirby Mills, an aircraft painter at FRCE, was among the many artisans for whom working on the A-4 was a first. Despite having worked on several restorations for display aircraft, this was the first A-4 he had seen come through the facility. "It was very neat and it’s nice to see it put to use," Mills said.

The project was unique in its focus on the aircraft's paint scheme. Jeffrey Mitchell, an aircraft transfer branch planner, explained that this was the fourth historical aircraft they had restored for the air station, but the first A-4. The project was chosen to honor Marine Attack Squadron 223, which flew the A-4 until 1987.

To ensure the aircraft looked as it did in its prime, Mitchell and his team collaborated with historians at Marine Attack Squadron 223. "We were able to get pictures and ideas from them; they were very helpful. We wanted to make this aircraft look like it did back in the day," he said.

The painting process for this restoration differed from that of operational aircraft. While the same color schemes were used, the overall paint job was designed to withstand the elements. "For restoration jobs, we put a good clear coat on the aircraft to help withstand the sun and weather. The clear coat really helps protect the paint from bubbling up and fading over time," Mitchell explained.

The restoration of the A-4 Skyhawk, a single-seat attack aircraft developed for the Navy and Marine Corps in the 1950s, was not just about preserving a piece of aviation history. It was also about honoring the depot's history, the aircraft's history, the aviators who flew A-4s, and those who serviced it, as Ronald Gray, Aircraft Clean and Paint Shop Supervisor, emphasized.

In the end, the restoration and painting of the A-4 Skyhawk served as a testament to the skill and dedication of the artisans at FRCE, North Carolina's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul, and technical services provider. It showcased yet another way the depot's artisans provide service to the fleet, while also honoring the rich history of aviation.

Some notable uses of the aircraft include the Vietnam War, the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the Gulf War, and the Falklands War.

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FenderBender Staff Reporters

The FenderBender staff reporters have a combined two-plus decades of journalism and collision repair experience.

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