A-4M 160024 Retirement Re-Painting
by David W. Aungst
A-4M 160024 was the aircraft singled out for receiving a special paint scheme to comemorate the last US Marines A-4 retirement.The Starting Point
160024 started off looking not much different from all the other A-4M Skyhawks in VMA-131. In 1992, I sent my camera up for a joyride and this was one of the images that I got back when I developed the film.
The following was how Double Nuts looked in 1993, before being re-painted. The April images are from flight line visits to NAS/JRB Willow Grove (home of VMA-131). The August images are from the Seymour Johnson AFB open house and air show.
A Time of Transition
These are images of Double Nuts in November 1993, during the time she was repainted in high-vis colors. When I visited, the overall Gull Gray and White camoulfage was already applied with a good start of the unit markings. It was a cold November and every time the inside of the hangar started to warm up a bit, the co-resident helo unit would open the hangar doors to move an aircraft in or out. Some of the images show the portable heating units used to help dry the paint.
Through the spring or 1994, the aircraft was mostly done. Every time I visited, though, more little details were present. Note the centerline fuel tank was still just Ghost Gray as was the arresting hook. There was talk for a time of adding yellow diamonds on the sides of the hotdog antenna at the top of the tail, but this never happened.
In June of 1994, VMA-131 went to MCAS Yuma for their last deployment. I was privledged enough to get invited out for a weekend during the deployment. I got to spend time with the Skyhawks, but not much with Double Nuts. She lived mostly in the bombing pit. I did get one trip to the bombing pit and the pictures below are from that trip. Note the live Rockeyes and Snakeyes (yellow stripes).
The following are detail images of Double Nuts. The dates and times of the images vary, but this gives a good feel for all the special markings applied to the aircraft. Note, the aircraft had all the markings painted onto it. No self-adhesive markings were used, even for the rescue arrows on the sides of the fuselage below the cockpit. As such, there was minimal airframe data on the aircraft beyond the few required markings.
Out to Pasture
Double Nuts was sent to MCAS Cherry Point after her retirement in 1994 to become a part of a museum that was forming there. I am unsure the museum ever got things together or not. After living some years on the Cherry Point flight line (I visited her once in 2000), she eventually found a home in front of a Hampton Inn in Havelock. Most recently, she is in front of the Chamber of Commerce in Havelock. As can be seen, the airframe has been repainted to freshen up the markings. Most all the little artworks and names are gone, though. Only very faded versions of the badges on the fuselage sides are left from the original painting.
Text & Images Copyright © 2009 by David W. Aungst