Heroes Hall at the Orange County Fairgrounds will have a new centerpiece as last night a Skyhawk plane was moved there from the Santa Ana Civic Center.
The Vietnam-era A-4M Skyhawk aircraft had been on display at the Civic Center Plaza for more than a decade, but had to be moved for construction plans. The plane will be unveiled at its new Heroes Hall location during the annual Salute to Veterans event on Nov. 9.
The plane was lifted off its display pedestal, transported along Broadway Avenue, Civic Center Drive to Fairview Road and to the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa — a 15-mile journey. The Skyhawk is on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla.
The Skyhawk plane was built between 1954 and 1979, 2,960 in total and built to be small and cost effective so more could be accommodated on a carrier, according to Boeing. The bomber was nicknamed “Heinemann’s Hot Rod” after Douglas designer Ed Heinemann. The aircraft was about half the empty weight of other planes at the time.
“The primary functions for which the new airplane was designed where the carriage of atomic weapons and ground support or interdiction, operating both from carriers and advanced shore bases. Nevertheless, it was gradually found that the new airplane could, in fact, undertake such additional roles as border patrol, gunnery training and bombing proficiency, jet indoctrination and air refueling,” states a March 7, 1958 article in the “Flight and Aircraft Engineer” periodical.
The plane was first used in combat on Aug. 4, 1964 in the first American carrier-launched raids on North Vietnam. Skyhawks were used in short-range flights during Israel’s Yom Kippur war in 1973. The plane was also used in Argentina, Australia, Israel, Kuwait, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand. The plane was used in the Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstrations from 1974 to 1986.