RNZAF A4 Skyhawk

RNZAF Skyhawks – A Short History

RNZAF Skyhawks – A Short History

Compiled by Jim Barclay with information supplied by ‘Air Frame’

 

Fourteen A4K aircraft were ordered from the Douglas Aircraft Company by the RNZAF in 1968 (ten A4K single seaters, being ‘tail numbers’ NZ6201-NZ6210, and four TA4K two seaters NZ6251-NZ6254). The first two aircraft (NZ6201 and NZ6251) were handed over to the NZ Ambassador, H.E. Frank Corner, on 16 January 1970 at the McDonnell Douglas aircraft factory in Long Beach, California. 

 

The first three RNZAF Skyhawks were delivered to NAS Cecil Field, Florida by USN VA-44 pilots on 6th February 1970. At Cecil Field, ten RNZAF pilots were undergoing their A4 conversion having arrived in USA in January 1970.  In mid-April 1970, once the RNZAF A4 conversion course had been completed, ten RNZAF Skyhawks were ferried back across USA by RNZAF and USN pilots to NAS North Island, San Diego, to be loaded as deck cargo aboard the USS Okinawa (an 18,300 ton Helicopter carrier). The remaining four RNZAF Skyhawks were delivered straight to NAS North Island from the Douglas plant.

 

The USS Okinawa departed San Diego on 1st May 1970 and arrived in NZ on 17th May 1970, having passed through an horrific storm the night before arriving in New Zealand. The Skyhawks were offloaded from the Okinawa and towed on the public highways to RNZAF Base Auckland – Whenuapai Airfield on 17th May 1970 where they were prepared for flight. The first aircraft, TA4K NZ6254, was flown to the future home of the A4s at RNZAF Base Ohakea by Squadron Leader John Scrimshaw, CO 75 Squadron, on 21st Mar 1970.

 

In the mid-1980s, the next 10 Skyhawk aircraft to be acquired by the RNZAF were purchased from Royal Australian Navy (RAN). In July 1984, eight A4 single seaters that became NZ6211-NZ6218, and two TA4 dual seaters NZ6255 and NZ6256 were ferried by 75 Sqn pilots from NAS Nowra to Ohakea.

 

In the period 1988-1991, all 20 remaining Skyhawks (i.e. A4Ks and ex-RAN A4Gs) in the RNZAF were updated under Project Kahu (Kahu is a New Zealand Maori word for Hawk) to A4K-1 standard. The update included the F16 APG66 radar and weapons aiming systems, ring-laser gyro navigation, hands on stick and throttle (HOTAS), head-up display, and multi-function display glass cockpit.

 

In December 2001, following a political decision, all of the remaining 17 RNZAF A4K-1 Skyhawks were withdrawn from service and placed into long term storage pending disposal.  Some of these aircraft, however, were kept in airworthy condition until 2004. 

 

In 2012 nine aircraft were sent to various Museums (see below for history of 6201, 02, 04, 05, 06, 09, 16, 54, and 55. [55 went back to the Royal Australian Navy]). 

 

A further eight aircraft were sold in 2012 to Draken International based in Lakeland, Florida, USA (see below for history of 6212, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 51, 52)

 

Of the 24 Skyhawks that saw service in the RNZAF over some 31 years, seven aircraft were destroyed in accidents and, sadly, three pilots lost their lives.

 

RNZAF Skyhawk aircraft destroyed in crashes:-

 

6207 – 18 Oct 74 Ohakea – Wg Cdr Fred Kinvig – engine oil pump failure – ejected

6253 – 25 Mar 81 Waiouru – Flt Lt John Dick – struck ground on low level intercept – pilot killed

6211 – 24 Oct 89 Ohakea – Fg Off Graham Carter – mid-air formation aerobatics – pilot killed

6208 – 23 Jul 92 Castlepoint – Fg Off Scott Armour – fuel transfer failure – ejected

6203 – 3 Jan 96 – Marton – Fg Off Tony Fraser – engine oil line – ejected

6211 – 16 Feb 01 – Nowra, Aus – Sqn Ldr Murray Neilson – struck ground aerobatics – pilot killed

6256 – 20 Mar 01 – Perth, Aus – Flt Lt Phil Barnes – loss of control in ACM – ejected

 

 From 1970 until the aircraft were withdrawn from service in late 2001, there were a total of 168 pilots who flew RNZAF Skyhawks.

 

History of Individual aircraft:-

  • NZ-6201 (A-4K) [14084] BuNo.157904, First flown 10 Nov 69. Kahu update completed 1 Apr 1991 (18th of 20 a/c). Last flight 17 Dec 2001. Total hours 7668.6. Landings 6384. Arrested landings 30. Wd from service Dec 01. Now at Classic Flyers Museum, Tauranga 2012
  • NZ-6202 (A-4K) [14085] BuNo.157905, First flown 14 Feb 70. Kahu updated completed 20 Jun 91 (last of 22 a/c). Last flight 17 Dec 01. Total hours 7758.5. Landings 6232. Arrested landings 30. Wd from service Dec 01. Warbirds Wings & Wheels, Wanaka Airfield 2012
  • NZ-6203 (A-4K) [14086] BuNo.157906, crashed 20 Jun 96. Fg Off Anthony Fraser ejected.
  • NZ-6204 (A-4K) [14087] BuNo.157907, First flown 11 Mar 70. Kahu update completed 26 Mar 91 (17th of 20 a/c). Last flight 16 Oct 01. Total hours 7486.1. Landings 6012. Arrested landings 35. Wd from service DEC 01. Ashburton Aviation Heritage Museum, Ashburton 2012
  • NZ-6205 (A-4K) [14088] BuNo.157908, First flight 6 Mar 70. Kahu update completed 8 Aug 88 (2nd of 20 a/c). Last flight 30 Jul 04. Total flying 8079.3. Landings 6449. Arrested landings 39. Air Force Museum of NZ, Wigram 2012
  • NZ-6206 (A-4K) [14089] BuNo.157909, First flight 11 Mar 70. Kahu update completed 6 Dec 90 (14th of 20 a/c). Last flight 12 Dec 02. Total hours 7872.4. Landings 6178. Arrested landings 46. MOTAT, Auckland 2012
  • NZ-6207 (A-4K) [14090] BuNo.157910, First flight March 1970. Crashed Ohakea 18 Oct 74. Wg Cdr Fred Kinvig ejected. Note: Aircraft displayed as NZ 6207 at RNZAF Museum at Christchurch is USN A-4L BuNo 149516 on loan (rmd srvc Dec 2001). Display/trainer is based upon repaired remains of BuNo 157910 NZ6207, which crashed in 1974.
  • NZ-6208 (A-4K) [14091] BuNo.157911, crashed 23 JUL 92. Fg Off Scott Amour ejected
  • NZ-6209 (A-4K) [14092] BuNo.157912, First flight 15 Apr 70. Kahu update completed 10 Sep 90 (12th of 20 a/c). Last flight 17 Dec 01. Total hours 8050.5. Landings 6511. Arrested landings 28. Wd from service DEC 01. NZ Warbirds, Ardmore 2012
  • NZ-6210 (A-4K) [14093] BuNo.157913, crashed 24 OCT 89. Fg Off Graham Carter killed
  • NZ-6211 (A-4K) BuNo.N13-154903, First flight 19 Jul 1967 RAN A-4G “882”. RNZAF Jul 1984. Kahu update completed 4 Jun 91 (19th of 20 a/c). Crashed 16 Feb 01 Sqn Ldr Murray Neilson killed.
  • NZ-6212 (A-4K) BuNo.N13-154904, First flight 20 Jul 67 RAN A-4G “883”. RNZAF from Jul 84. Kahu update completed 10 May 90 (10th of 20 a/c). Last flight RNZAF A4K 17 Oct 01. Total hours 6727.1. Landings 9399. Arrested landings 552. Wd from srvc RNZAF Dec 01. Draken Intl – N142EM 3 Oct 12
  • NZ-6213 (A-4K) BuNo.N13-154905, First flight 26 Jul 67 RAN A-4G “884”. RNZAF from Jul 84. Kahu update completed 19 Dec 90 (15th of 20 a/c). Last flight RNZAF A4K 18 Dec 01. Total hours 7041.4. Landings 9535. Arrested landings 612. Wd from RNZAF srvc Dec 01. Draken Intl – N143EM 3 Oct 12
  • NZ-6214 (A-4K) BuNo.N13-154908, First flight 8 Aug 67 RAN A-4G “887”. RNZAF from Jul 84. Kahu update completed 1 Dec 89 (6th of 20 a/c). Last flight RNZAF A4K 18 Oct 01. Total hours 6213.2. Landings 6316. Arrested landings 792. Wd from RNZAF srvc Dec 01. Draken Intl – N144EM 3 Oct 12
  • NZ-6215 (A-4K) BuNo.155052, First flight 26 Jun 67 USN A4F until 1970. Vietnam veteran. RAN A-4G “871” from 1971. RNZAF from JUL 1984. Kahu update completed 19 Mar 90 (8th of 20 a/c). Last flight RNZAF A4K 19 Oct 01. Total hours 6678.9. Landings 7341. Arrested landings 1087. Wd from RNZAF srvc Dec 01. RNZAF Draken Intl – N146EM 3 Oct 12
  • NZ-6216 (A-4K) BuNo.155061, First flight 31 Jul 67 USN A4F until 1970. Vietnam veteran 1969/70. RAN A-4G “875” from 1971, RNZAF from JUL 1984. Kahu update completed 10 Jul 90 (11th of 20 a/c). Last flight RNZAF A4K 18 Dec 12. Total hours 6876.8. Landings 8512. Arrested landings 1056. Wd from RNZAF srvc Dec 01. Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, Blenheim 2012
  • NZ-6217 (A-4K) BuNo.155063, First flight July 67 USN A4F until 1970. Vietnam veteran 1969/70. RAN A-4G “876” from 1971. RNZAF from Jul 1984. Kahu update completed 1 Feb 70. Last flight RNZAF as A4K 15 May 03. Total flying 6053.2. Landings 7343. Arrested landings 803. Wd from srvc RNZAF May 03. Draken Intl N146EM 3 Oct 12.
  • NZ-6218 (A-4K) BuNo.155069, First flight 29 Jun 67 USN A4F. Last A4F produced. USN service till 1970 – severe wire strike on 2 Jul 69. Repaired and to RAN A-4G “877” from 1971 with only 712.55 hours. RNZAF from JUL 1984. Kahu update completed 11 Apr 90 (including new pressurisation bulkhead and new ex-Blue Angels wing following rollover crash at RAAF Townsville on 3 June 1985). Last flight RNZAF A4K 15 Aug 01. Total hours 5594.1. Landings 6181. Arrested landings 1056. Wd from srvc (damaged) 15 Aug 01. Draken Intl N147EM 3 Oct 12.
  • NZ-6251 (TA-4K) [14094] BuNo.157914, First flight 5 Dec 69 RNZAF TA-4K. Kahu Update completed 20 Nov 89.  Last flight 19 Oct 01. Total hours 6558.0. Landings 6733. Arrested landings 107. Wd from RNZAF service Dec 01. Draken Intl N140EM 3 Oct 12
  • NZ-6252 (TA-4K) [14095] BuNo.157915, First flight 24 Jan 70 RNZAF TA-4K. Kahu update completed 7 Sep 89. Last RNZAF flight 9 Jul 04. Total hours 6525.6 Landings 6733 (??). Arrested landings 100. Wd from RNZAF service Jul 04. Draken Intl N141EM 3 Oct 12
  • NZ-6253 (TA-4K) [14096] BuNo.157916, First flight Feb 1970. Crashed 25 Mar 81. Flt Lt John Dick killed.
  • NZ-6254 (TA-4K) [14097] BuNo.157917, First flight RNZAF TA-4K 21 Feb 70. Kahu update completed 6 Jun 88 (first a/c of 20 to be updated). Last RNZAF flight 19 Oct 01. Total hours 6584.5. Landings 6416. Arrested landings 96. Wd from service DEC 01. Air Force Museum of NZ, Wigram 2012
  • NZ-6255 (TA-4K) BuNo.N13-154911, First flight 21 Jul 67 RAN TA4G “880”. RNZAF from Jul 1984. Kahu update completed to TA4K 7 Jul 89 (3rd of 20 a/c). Last RNZAF flight 11 Aug 03 TA-4K. Total hours 6897.4. Landings 8686. Arrested landings 122. Wd from RNZAF service Aug 03. RAN Fleet Air Arm Museum, Nowra. Repainted as TA4G ‘880’ 2012
  • NZ-6256 (TA-4K) BuNo.N13-154912, First flight Jul 67 RAN TA-4G “881”. RNZAF from Jul 1984. Kahu update completed 26 Oct 90 (14th of 20 a/c). Crashed Perth, Aus 20 Mar 01 Fg Off Philip Barnes ejected.

Average Totals for the last remaining 6 of original 10 RNZAF A4Ks – 7818 hours/6294 landings/34 arrested landings.

 

Image caption:

Ft Lt John Denton flying Skyhawk A4K NZ6203 armed with 8 x Mk81 250Lb bombs over the Crater Lake, Mt Ruapehu – photo by Flt Lt Jim Barclay from Skyhawk TA4K NZ6252 flown by Lt Larry Pfitzenmaier USN – photo Jim Barclay  3 August 1972

 

2 Comments
  • Guy Russell
    Posted at 08:28h, 25 April Reply

    Hi Jim,
    Was there a particular A4 that you preferred to fly (better handling or performance)? Or we’re they all basically the same?
    Cheers
    Guy

    • Jim Barclay
      Posted at 17:56h, 13 May Reply

      Hi Guy,

      They were all basally the same, although pilots preferred the single seater over the two-seater. The two seater (T Bird) was longer in the nose to accommodate the second pilot in the now tandem cockpit. It seemed to be quicker to point the nose single seater (often called ‘The Model’) where it needed to be, compared by the slightly slower stick response from a T Bird.

      Cheers,

      Jim

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