Interest

Wherefore art thou, Sandy?

Written by Mike L.
USMC AD-5 showing the "greenhouse" canopy opened where the back seat crew sat.

USMC AD-5 showing the “greenhouse” canopy opened where the back seat crew sat.

SPAD, Flying Dumptruck, Able Dog, Sandy.  The aircraft that served faithfully for three decades in the United States Armed Forces went by many names.  This aircraft was known for its rugged durability, ease of use, outstanding flight characteristics, and awesome weapons load.  The Able Dog was designed for a role it never served in the closing days of World War II.  Although it was not able to serve its intended combat role, it did go on to serve in two more wars proving that propeller driven aircraft have a role in a jet age.  Now, we’ll look at the AD/A-1 Skyraider and the role it played in American aviation history!

Bad News showing off a variety of ordnance as could be carried by the Able Dog.

Bad News showing off a variety of ordnance as could be carried by the Able Dog.

The XBT2D-1 was designed in the twilight of WWII as the United States Navy and Marine Corps sought an aircraft that could replace the venerable SBD Dauntless and SB2C Helldiver with an aircraft capable of flying faster, farther, and delivering a much larger payload.  The XBT2D-1 was to be able to do all of this and still launch from the smaller support aircraft carriers of the US Navy.  During the development, Ed Heinemann learned that for every 100 pounds of weight removed from the aircraft, there were dramatic performance enhancements.  This lead to Heinemann and his team making dramatic cuts to the aircraft, removing over 1,800 pounds from the original XBT2D-1 concept.  This gave the XBT2D-1 an increase in performance of an extra 396 miles of combat radius, reduced the takeoff run by 144 feet, and increased the rate of climb by 324 feet per minute.  The US Navy approved the project, and by the end of 1945 the AD-1 Skyraider was ready for combat.  This meant that the Skyraider arrived not only too late to see combat in WWII, but also on the cusp of The Jet Age.

Naked Fanny showing off the impressive capacity for high explosives that the Spads had.

Naked Fanny showing off the impressive capacity for high explosives that the Spads had.

Finding a niche in the age where Jets were becoming more and more prevalent was a difficult place for any prop-driven airplane.  This did not deter the Skyraider which would force itself into service in Korea and Vietnam as the one aircraft that could provide long loiter times, long distance patrols, and a payload unmatched by any other propeller-driven aircraft let-alone jet powered types.  Able to launch and recover on smaller, straight-decked aircraft carriers while carrying nearly their own empty weight in ordnance, these aircraft quickly proved to be invaluable in an age that proclaimed to belong to the jets.  These aircraft even went on to record air-to-air kills against jets, proving to the world that slow Flying Dumptrucks were still more than relevant when jets ruled the skies.

Here we see the F4U-5, AD-5, and A-4 flying together.  Interesting to note that each of these aircraft served in two wars, with the Corsair fighting in WWII and Korea, the Skyraider flying in Korea and Vietnam, and the Skyhawk flying in Vietnam and Desert Storm.

Here we see the F4U-5, AD-5, and A-4 flying together. Interesting to note that each of these aircraft served in two wars, with the Corsair fighting in WWII and Korea, the Skyraider flying in Korea and Vietnam, and the Skyhawk flying in Vietnam and Desert Storm.

Beginning with its first production aircraft in 1945, the Douglas AD/A-1 Skyraider was continuously produced until 1957.  Over the impressive 12 year production span, there were 28 different variants totaling 3,180 models produced spanning from the AD-1 to the AD-7.  When the US Navy and United States Marine Corps started using a joint designation system, the Able Dog became the A for attack, and 1 for the first model to fall under the designation system.  Some Spads required the additional moniker of EA for Electronic Attack, as they further proved their usefulness in the jet age by inheriting the role of AWACs.

Here we get a look at the underside of the Spad, Bent Wing Bird, and Scooter.

Here we get a look at the underside of the Spad, Bent Wing Bird, and Scooter.

Even after the aircraft was no longer in production, it continued to serve honorably with the US Navy, USMC, and US Air Force through until 1968 when it was phased out of service and turned over to the South Vietnamese Air Force for use in the Vietnam War.  Finally replaced by the A-6 Intruder, and A-7 Corsair II, the Able Dog was no longer the old-timer keeping pace with the new-fangled jets.  That was not the end though; the Able Dog still continues flying today at airshows all over the world.  Instilling awe and amazement in future generations, Sandy will be around for many years to come with your support.

Specifications
First flight: March 18, 1945
Wingspan: 50 feet
Length: 39 feet 3 inches
Height: 15 feet 8 inches
Weight: 18,398 pounds
Power plant: One 2,700-horsepower Wright R-3350 engine
Speed: More than 300 mph
Ceiling: 23,800 feet
Accommodation One crew
Armament: Four 20 mm cannons and a 2,000-pound bomb load, or an assortment of bombs, rockets, mines, grenades, flares and gun pods

1: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/a-1.htm
2: http://www.boeing.com/boeing/history/mdc/skyraider.page
3: http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=144

About the author

Mike L.

Mike L. | USN OIF/OEF Veteran | Ruck HQ |
Mike served in the US Navy from 2003-2007, and in the US Army National Guard in 2008. During his career, Mike served aboard the USS Harry S. Truman from 2004-2006, and with Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Seven from 2006-2007. His brief tour in the Army National Guard was in Tulsa Oklahoma as a 22Q in 2008. Currently, Mike is a freelance writer and professional photographer specializing in military aviation and aviation history. He is also an aviator, and enjoys building flight hours whenever he has time.