Ordered in 1959 by the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) the first Douglas Skyraider was delivered February 1960. BuNo124143 rolled off the Douglas production line at the El Segundo plant in California on the June 1960 with the serial number of 14. The Douglas Skyraider was initially purchased by the French to replace the Republic P-47D Thunderbolts that were being used against armed rebels fighting an independence war that ran from 1954 to 1962 in the French held African colony of Algeria.
Eventually the Armée de l’Air had a total of 113 Skyraiders made up of 20 AD-4s, 88 AD-4Ns and 5 three-seater AD-4NAs, which were all converted into single seat AD-4Ns with French equipment installed by Sud-Aviation. They were to be used for Counter-insurgency (COIN) operations armed with bombs, rockets and napalm. Skyraider BuNo124143 was one of eight donated and delivered to the Armée de l’Air Gabonaise (Gabon Air Force) in 1972 with the serial TR-KFP. They were operated by the Gabon Presidential Guard and flown by French mercenaries. France also donated 15 Skyraiders to Cambodia in 1965. Following use by the Armée de l’Air, six were donated to Chad where they were flown by an independent local air force manned by French mercenaries between 1976 and 1984. They also flew under the French flag in Djibouti and on the island of Madagascar. The last Skyraider to be operated by the French Air Force was AD-4N/BuNo 126965, which had returned in 1976 after seeing action in Chad, and made its final military flight at Bordeaux in September 1979.
Although an American serial of N91909 was reserved for TR-KFP in 1976, it was never taken up and TR-KFP remained in Gabon until July 1984 when it was sold to Aero Retro, based at St. Rambert’d Albion in France and acquired the civil registration of F-WZDP. In 1991 F-WZDP was bought by Jean Baptiste Salis and with a new registration of F-AZDP is based at La Ferté-Alais. Although never operated by the United States Navy, BuNo124143 is finished in the colours an A-1J Skyraider, RM-205 of VA-176 ‘Thunderbolts’ that were flying from the USS Saratoga between 1955 and 1966.
30th July 2011
The Skyraider has had it’s damaged starboard wing removed by a 3 man team from its home base at La Ferté-Alais. The sharp bits were secured in bubble wrap and it looked like the two parts of the wing were being readied for transport. They also gave the Skyraider a good clean.
23rd September 2011
Two engineers from La Ferté-Alais arrived at the Fighter Collection Hangar mid morning followed later on by another two with a replacement starboard outer wing for the Skyraider strapped to a trailer. The wing had been borrowed from Didier Chable as a means of getting F-AZDP home where it will be removed and returned and a new-ish wing being sourced from America installed. The wing had been attached to the airframe by the time I left for home.
After final airframe checks and topping up the engine with a bit of oil, the TFC tractor towed the Skyraider out onto the airfield. It took several attempts to fire up but eventually a big cloud of blue oily smoke belched from the exhaust stubs. Once the engine was ticking over, the wings were lowered and power runs carried out.
24th September 2011.
By the time I arrived at Hangar 2 the next day, the wing had been plumbed in and undergoing folding tests and the damaged wing strapped to the trailer. All appeared to be working well as the wing tip light was wired in and tip attached along with the pitot tube added. Following a bit of a cleaning to the new wing and last minute checks, lunch was declared with an engine test to take place later that afternoon.
Douglas AD-4N Skyraider(F-AZDP) was in temporary residence in The Fighter Collection hangar awaiting a new starboard outer wing panel following a mid air collision with Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-18 Mustang/A68-192(D-FBBD) during their final run and break at the end of the Balbo at the Flying Legends Air Show on Sunday 10th July 2011. The Mustang, finished as 472218/WZ-I/’Big Beautiful Doll’ and being flown by Rob Davies, was struck on the underside of the rear fuselage during the break to turn downwind for landing by the starboard outer wing of the Skyraider, a portion of which was broken off. Rob Davies took to his parachute at low level and landed safely and without injury, although the Mustang was destroyed when it crash into an empty field just to the south west of Duxford airfield. The Skyraider managed to land safely back on the airfield. Although there have been lots of speculation on various forums as to why it happened, the exact circumstances that lead to the collision won’t be known until after the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) have conducted their inquiry and published their report. A new outer wing panel is reportedly being sourced in America.
The wings were folded again and the engine shut down following a succesful engine test. The aircraft was filled with fuel and towed back to the hangar to await the arival of the pilot, some time next week, and its departure back to France.