Losses and Aviation Safety

The story behind this A-3 Skywarrior Crash Landing aboard USS Coral Sea

“Actually, living through the landing wasn’t as bad as seeing it on film later that day,” Frank Peele former A-3 Skywarrior crewman/navigator.

Taken in 1963 the interesting video in this post features a Douglas A-3 Skywarrior crash landing aboard USS Coral Sea aircraft carrier. At 0:30 in fact an A-3 comes in to land. As it touches the deck, the nose wheel collapses, rolls along the deck and falls into the sea. The aircraft takes off again to wait for instructions, while the barricade is raised. At 0:58 the Sky Warrior comes in to land, hits the barricade and skims along the deck on its nose. It comes to rest and rescue teams run out.

Frank Peele was the crewman/navigator in that mishap, as he remembers:

“I was the crewman/navigator in that incident. We did blow the lower hatch. On landing, it crumpled like so much tinfoil. Surprised us, too. Actually, living through the landing wasn’t as bad as seeing it on film later that day. We caught 2 wires on the barricade landing, so proved nothing about the barricade’s ability to stop that much weight. Barricades had been tested with other A-3’s, but not with our gross weight, so there was some uncertainty right up to the impact.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. EA-3B Skywarrior VQ-2 Sandeman, JQ12 “Ranger 12” / 146448 / 1980

“Even though the fuselage was slightly buckled aft of the cockpit, the bird was barged to the Naval Air Rework Facility in Alameda, CA, and later returned to service. In 1966 it went down east of the Philippines due to fuel transfer problems; one of the crew was recovered, but the other two were never found.”

With a gross weight of 82,000 pounds, the A3D (redesignated A-3) Skywarrior was the largest aircraft to ever operate from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, a fact that inspired the nickname the “Whale.” First delivered to the fleet in 1956, the A3D represented carrier aviation’s atomic punch, equipping heavy attack squadrons (VAH) designed to deliver nuclear weapons.

Interesting Fact- The A3D was not equipped with ejection seats, the crew instead bailing out by sliding down a chute that led out the bottom of the airplane. This fact inspired crews to use the Skywarrior’s A3D acronym to create a morbid nickname—“All Three Dead.”

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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