Several years-ago I was looking through pictures I had taken on one of the trips to the annual Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Air Show held in Midland Texas. This particular year we had stopped for fuel at Dona Ana County Airport in Santa Teresa New Mexico, just west of El Paso Texas. We had some time to kill as there was a wait for fuel so the group of us decided to visit the War Eagles Air Museum just across the ramp from the fuel pit. Parked outside all by itself was a former Navy A7; I told everyone I was going to go check it out. Most of the guys could not tell an A7 from an F8; several, in fact, thought it was an F8 Crusader. I made the comment that the A7 was the airplane I had flown in Vietnam. I could hear the guys talking:
“This sure is a BIG airplane!”
“The cockpit looks huge!”
“How fast was it?”
“You landed this aboard the ship?”
I was feeling a notch or two above these land-lubbers, answering all questions in perfect Navy jargon using a lot of “ports” and “starboards” as I went along. I was trying to impress them with my knowledge of all things salty.
I took a few pictures of that A7 basking in the New Mexico sunlight, one of which was of the Bureau Number, or BUNO, a number assigned to all Naval Aircraft before they are delivered, kind of like a Social Security number; yours until death and beyond. The number assigned to this aircraft was 154554, just another number at the time. Looking at this picture of the BUNO I decided to check my Navy log book and see if I had ever flown this bird. Well low and behold, did I fly it!
My last flying in the Navy was with the Reserves at VA-305, the “Lobo’s” based at NAS Pt Mugu flying the A7 Corsair II. The squadron must have received their first A7B’s in May of 1978 as I flew my first “B” the 26th of that month. I met 154554 on the 22nd of October that year and we flew a “Low Level”, so the book says. We then flew again on the 16th of November and went 45 degree bombing, then the next night we went bombing again. Over the next four years I would fly her 22 times. On the second of May 1980 we flew a COMPEX hop to Navy Fallon Nevada; there must have been a bombing derby going on. She must have been a good bomber because we didn’t fly the ones that weren’t in competition. During the month of November 1981 she was the only bird I flew the entire month, six times, even flew her on my birthday that month. On September the 8th 1981 we made a field arrested landing because of a PC-1 failure, or hydraulic failure. I think that was the only hydraulic failure I ever had flying the A7.
Wow, that was pretty cool! Almost like running across an old friend on the internet or something like that. It is pretty amazing the stories that come out of that old log book. Every so often I open it up to jump back into the past; it is usually a fun ride, and definitely good therapy, because a lot of good memories come out of that log book as well.
The most amazing part of this story has yet to be told. I left flying A7’s before the A7 quit flying with the Navy Reserve. Guess what airplane I flew my last two hops in? You guessed it, good old BUNO 154554 on the second of September of 1982 and again the next day.
There is a diagonal line drawn across the last page of this log that says “No Further Flights this Command” and there were no further flying commands left in my naval career. That was the last Navy aircraft I ever flew. How fitting to know that BUNO 154554 will live on into infamy as a museum static display. At least she didn’t wind up a beer can or a Toyota or some other undignified way to die.