January 06, 2022

A4 Skyhawk

A4 Skyhawk collectible

Photo by Lt.JG Nelson, U.S. Navy - This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6430101.

The Douglas A4 Skyhawk is a lightweight, single engine, subsonic, carrier-capable attack aircraft. It was developed in the early 1950s for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps by Douglas Aircraft Company, later McDonnell Douglas. It could carry a bomb load comparable to a Boeing B-17 bomber from World War II, as well as deliver nuclear weapons utilizing a low-altitude bombing method and a "loft" delivery approach.

In 1952, the U.S. Navy contracted with Douglas Aircraft Company to build a prototype, XA4D-1, and later an additional 19 A-4s. It was a compact, lightweight design, featuring a fixed delta wing so compact that it could be stowed on a carrier without the need for folding. The high performance, versatile aircraft offered stability during take off and landing, excellent low speed control, and was effective in its mission to attack and destroy surface targets. 2,960, of different variants, were constructed between 1954 and 1979. Read more about the fascinating production history of the Skyhawk.


The XA4D-1 prototype in 1954, USN - U.S. Navy Naval Aviation News September 1954


The Navy’s requirement for its new carrier-based strike jet included the capability for carrying a 2,000 pound payload up to 3,000 nautical miles, a maximum takeoff weight of no more than 30,000 pounds, at less than one million dollars each. Heinemann promised he could deliver that in an aircraft faster and lighter than required. The A-4 was a success - Heinemann’s team came through on every promise. XA4D-1 weighed 7,896 pounds and cost $860,000. In spite of its minimal size, it could carry much more than the 2,000 pounds required by the Navy - more like an external capacity to 8,200 pounds in later models, thanks to the solid foundation designed by Heinemann.

Here is a short history of the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.


The scaled down Skyhawk was also called "Heinemann's Hot-Rod", "Scooter", "Tinker Toy Bomber" or “Tink”, "Bantam Bomber", and "Kiddiecar". They played a vital role in the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Falklands War. Read more about their role in Vietnam.


Ed Heinemann PlaneTags

A4 Specs

A4 drawing Rob Schneider
Drawing by Rob Schneider


A4 Characteristics:

  • Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
  • Buno #: 139960
  • Crew: 1
  • Empty Weight: 8,391 Lbs
  • Max Takeoff Weight: 19,910 Lbs
  • Wing Span: 27 Ft 6 In
  • Length: 39 Ft 4 In
  • Height: 15 Ft 2 In A4

A4 Performance:

  • Range: 1,295 Nm W/ A Single Mk-7 Nuclear Weapon
  • Armament: 2 X 20mm Cannons W/ Up To 5,000lbs Ordinance
  • Cruise Speed: 440 Kts
  • Ceiling: 46,600 Ft
  • Rate Of Climb: 11,600 Ft / Minute
  • Engine: Curtiss Wright J65-W-4

Ed Heinemann

Ed Heinemann memorabilia


“I believe that the aircraft’s most significant contribution revolves around how it proved that with diligent engineering, hard work, and continuing cooperation between builder and buyer, wonders can be worked. Wonders that last a very long time.” - Ed Heinemann


Edward Henry Heinemann (March 14, 1908 – November 26, 1991), began working for Douglas Aircraft Company as a draftsman in 1926. Although he had never completed a formal engineering degree, he rose through the ranks, apprenticing to other legends Donald Douglas, Jack Northrop, and Howard Hughes. He moved on to project engineer, then Chief Engineer in 1936. During his long tenure with Douglas, he was behind some of the finest combat aircraft of the 1940s and ’50s. including:

  • SBD Dauntless
  • A-20 Havoc
  • A-26 Invader
  • A-1 Skyraider
  • A-3 Skywarrior
  • A-4 Skyhawk
  • F3D Skyknight
  • F4D Skyray
  • Douglas Skystreak and Douglas Skyrocket research aircraft

He became Vice President for Military Aircraft in 1958, before joining Guidance Technology as Executive Vice President in 1960, then on to Corporate Vice President - Engineering for General Dynamics, which he held until retirement in 1973. He was awarded many awards and recognitions for his contributions to aviation, including the Collier Trophy in 1953, the Guggenheim Medal, National Medal of Science, and inclusion in the Aviation Hall of Fame.


Heinemann A4 Skyhawk

BuNo 139960

USS Saratoga and A4
9960 aboard USS Saratoga (CVA 60) - 1958, courtesy of Seaforces.org


BuNo 139960 was constructed as an A4D-1 in 1957, and was delivered to the VA-34 shortly after. 9960 served with a number of light attack squadrons during its Navy career. In addition to the Aircraft History Cards ( 1957 - 1966 , 1966 - 1968 , 1968 ) provided by Naval Aviation Museum archives, the following information is available courtesy of skyhawk.org .


  • 24 Jan 1957 - VA-34 - NAS Cecil Field, FL
  • 24 Feb 1959 - VF-21 - NAS Oceana, VA


  • 24 Feb 1959 - VF-21 - NAS Oceana, VA
  • 31 Aug 1959 - VA-43 - NAS Oceana, VA
  • 16 Mar 1960 - O&R BUWEPS FR - NAS Cherry Point, NC

Stored May 1963 - April 1966 at NAF Litchfield Park, AZ


  • 30 Jun 1966 - NARF - NAS Alameda, CA
  • 30 Jun 1966 - NARTU - NAS Norfolk, VA

NAS Norfolk  

  • 30 Jun 1966 - NARTU - NAS Norfolk, VA
  • 01 Aug 1968 – NARTU Norfolk - Convert to TA-4A
  • 23 Oct 1968 - NAS - NAS Memphis, TN

NAS Memphis  

  • 23 Oct 1968 - NAS - NAS Memphis, TN
  • 24 Oct 1968 - Stricken - 2SO


Yanks Air Museum

Yanks Air Museum

After being stricken off charge in 1968, 9960 found itself in the trusted hands of Yanks Air Museum in Chino, California. The museum’s collection began in 1973 with a Beech Staggerwing. Since then, it has grown to 200+ aircraft, many of which are one of a kind, rare specimens. For decades, the cockpit of 9960 was spotted in Yanks’ outdoor storage, with many wondering what would happen to it. In 2021, Yanks and MotoArt teamed up to put the remaining pieces of this Skyhawk into the hands of aviation enthusiasts, in the form of PlaneTags.

Aviation fans, Yanks is open for business. It’s just an hour east of Los Angeles and a great destination for the whole family. Take a tour of the museum and restoration boneyard, and visit the gift shop.


Making an Aviation Collectible: A4 PlaneTags

Follow the journey of the A4 Skyhawk from Yanks to MotoArt Studios in Torrance, CA.

Motoart a4 skyhawk


Douglas Skyhawk memorabilia


aviation skin collectible


fuselage skin collection


original aircraft skin


Creating aviation skin collectibles from decades-old fuselage pieces can be tricky, especially with a smaller vintage aircraft. The team is careful in handling and cutting the vintage airplane parts in order to maximize the amount of PlaneTags that can be created. With a smaller plane like the A-4 Skyhawk, this is crucial.

planes at MotoArt


creating a planetag


handmade planetags


A4 Skyhawk PlaneTags

military airplane collectible

The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk PlaneTags have arrived. Made from the original fuselage skin from BuNo 139960, MotoArt has created another incredible warbird collectible. This release is a smaller vintage edition of 3,500 PlaneTags. Each comes attached to a colorful display card with the plane’s details and story. They are essential for your aircraft skin collection if you are a PlaneTags collector. They also make the perfect pilot gift, a gift for a veteran, a Navy gift or for someone who loves military aircraft or history. Douglas A-4 Skyhawk authentic skin collectibles are available at planetags.com.



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