When the A-7 was launched from the catapult an incorrect weight estimation caused the aircraft to outrun the shuttle. The shuttle caught up with the aircraft before it departed the deck and impacted the left nose wheel assembly, causing it to break
Built by LTV Aerospace Corporation (the same company that produced the iconic F-8 Crusader), the A-7 Corsair II replaced the A-4 Skyhawk as Naval Aviation’s front line light attack aircraft. The aircraft performed its maiden flight in Sep. 1965 and resembled the F-8 Crusader especially in the single jet intake gaping beneath the nose.
However the short and stubby silhouette of the Corsair II embodied ruggedness and left little question that it was designed to carry bombs. In fact the A-7’s operational career began and ended under fire, the first squadron equipped with the aircraft logging missions over Vietnam in 1967 and the final two A-7-equipped units ending the aircraft’s flying days in the skies over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.
The interesting pictures in this post were taken on Jan. 25, 1991 and show U.S. Navy flight deck personnel work to secure an A-7E Corsair II (BuNo 158830) from Attack Squadron VA-72 Blue Hawks after an emergency barricade landing with live ordnance on the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). The aircraft was launching from the John F. Kennedy on a strike mission. When the aircraft was launched from the catapult (CAT 1) an incorrect weight estimation to the catapult crew caused the aircraft to outrun the shuttle. The shuttle caught up with the aircraft before it departed the deck and impacted the left nose wheel assembly, causing it to break.
The pilot, as well as several deck crew noticed the problem with the left nose wheel feel to the waters below after lift off. Several low level, low speed passes with the gear down (the pilot never raised it following the incident), it was recommended that the pilot divert to land. That was re-thought and those in command decided it would be more of a controlled crash if they rigged the barricade to trap the damaged bird.
The barricade was rigged and the aircraft lined up, landing perfectly. The nose gear strut dug an inch thick groove in the deck, removing the non-skid layer applied to the steel. During the trapping, the nose gear strut folded under the aircraft and the underside of the intake impacted the deck.
Crash crews were immediately dispatched as well as flight deck personnel manning fire hoses.
There were still a 2000 lb. GPB live bomb still attached to the inboard left wing station and an AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile attached to the left fuselage pylon station of the aircraft when it landed.
The aircraft was later robbed of all usable parts and decorated with Graffiti. After seeing the condition of the jet, the skipper of VA-72 thought it was not the proper way to dispose of such an aircraft that served the United States in a distinguished manner and ordered the entire aircraft (or remaining skeleton) be freshly painted.
The aircraft was jettisoned overboard from Elevator 3 with a large majority of the crew on deck to watch the event shortly thereafter.
VA-72 was assigned to Carrier Air Wing 3 (CVW-3) aboard the JFK for a deployment from Aug. 15, 1990 to Mar. 28, 1991.
An attrition replacement for A-7E BuNo 158830 was A-7E BuNo 159999 marked with the same side number ‘403’.
Photo credit: PH3 Filion and PH2 Moore / U.S. Navy
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com
Source: National Naval Aviation Museum