“Whale” arrives at Aviation Museum in Lexington

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Aviation Museum of Kentucky now as a whale. Visitors should not expect to see it swim, but to learn about an aircraft that provided outstanding service to the United States Navy. And after its restoration, museum guests will enjoy sitting in the cockpit of a type of plane that had a tour of duty covering 35 years.

The “Whale” is the Douglas Aircraft A3D Skywarrior. It was given the name Whale due to its large size. Such size did not prevent it from operating from the late 1940-early 1950’s aircraft carriers. The aircraft was one of the largest jet-powered planes ever launched and recovered in US Navy carrier air operations. Landings, or recoveries, often drew the attention of crewmen: it was a sight to behold, and took the abilities of a skilled pilot to bring the Skywarrior back on its home carrier.

The Skywarrior had multiple missions during the Vietnam War. After entering service in 1956, the Whale flew as a bomber, aerial refueler, VIP transport, electronic warfare aircraft, photo-reconnaissance platform, trainer and COD (carrier on-board delivery). Its last combat missions were in the First Gulf War during 1991.

“If there were a Best Supporting Actor Award for US Navy aircraft, the A3D would beat all the competition,” said museum COO David Riggins. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but the potential for a truly unique exhibit is there to develop.”

The Lexington museum took delivery of the cockpit section of a Skywarrior on July 12 from the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensascola, Florida. A multi-year restoration is the next task. With a wingspan of over 72 feet and length exceeding 76 feet, a complete A3D airframe would have taxed the resources of the Kentucky museum. With the forward section of the plane, museum guests will take the vantage point of pilot and bombardier/navigator as an A3D approached an aircraft carrier of the US Navy. They will also see the hatch in the cockpit floor that served as the emergency exit.

The Aviation Museum of Kentucky is located at 4029 Airport Road, adjacent to Blue Grass Airport in Lexington. It is the official aviation museum of the Commonwealth as well as home to the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame, and operates as a non-profit corporation. For more information, visit www.aviationky.org, or call 859-231-1219.

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