Pre-Flight Walk-Around

(External and internal close-ups except for the cockpit. See "The Drivers Office" under "Aviators" in above menu bar.

BuNo 137813

A-4L and TA-4J walk-around video

United Aeronautical Corp.

BuNo 160264

The "Well Dressed Warrior": from "BOOM" Powell.
The basic flight suit was a one piece garment of a patented and copyrighted fabric called Nomex which was fireproof. The suit had a big two-ended zipper from neck to crotch. Pencils or pens went in slots on the left sleeve. Maybe a handkerchief and chewing gum in the little pocket under the pencil slots. There were two big zippered pockets on the chest that flat items could go in. The two pockets on each leg were worthless while wearing a G-suit. Some guys even went through the effort of carefully cutting them, and their zippers, off.

The high topped flight boots required heavy socks. Usually it was white athletic socks; some guys went in for gray or green, hunter's socks, and some squadrons went so far as to get socks in the squadron color. The boots themselves had twenty eyelets for laces, so just getting them on took a while.

The G-suit was put on next. It's a funny shaped garment, and it took some time to just get it in position to put on. Once the waist portion was in your hands, you'd zip it around your belly, then slide it around so the legs were lined up. Long zippers which started way down at the ankles and ran up the inside of the leg fastened them in place. The G-suits were never washed so the stuff in the shin pockets stayed there almost permanently. Candy, cigarettes, lighters, knit caps, warm or heavy gloves, Swiss army knives, ground or signaling cloths, hats, and, always, water.

Pilots were constantly reminded that drinking water was the most important survival item, so they had water bottles everywhere they'd fit. Some of them even added a water bottle in a pouch that used the laces on the back of the G-suit leg. Baby bottles were the right size and easy to buy when in port. It was quite a sight to see aviators swaggering around with pink or baby-blue bottles on the back of their legs. It was also the easiest way to have a drink in the cockpit. So part of getting dressed was to make sure all your bottles were full and fresh.

The torso harness was next. Originally, it was a nylon sack that covered like a full length corset with shoulder straps, but in the heat of South East Asia, it was frequently modified by chopping off huge sections of fabric until they were nothing but the heavy straps that the parachute fastened to. That is, until one fine day, after having to eject from his Crusader, a pilot felt something give. His strap had come undone. Thinking fast, he gave himself a bear-hug before he flipped upside-down held only by his leg straps. After that, a certain minimum of cloth was decreed to back up the buckles.

Over that went the survival vest and life preserver. Except for its weight, you put it on like a normal vest. A zipper buried between the protruding pouch for the radio and goose-necked flashlight did up the front. The life preserver was a bunch of tightly rolled rubber and CO2 cartridges called a Mark-Three-Charlie. It had two snap-hooks and rings that fastened the halves together. This was a good place to thread the oxygen hose though to keep it from flopping around. If you inflated the Mark-three-C in the water the whole thing would rise up to your chin or worse, so there were two hold-down straps that went between your legs. If everything went right, you could bend over and catch them between your legs. Then it was a matter of holding the snap-hooks while fumbling blindly for the tiny rings on your harness under the Mark-three-C. If the straps weren't hanging down,… well, you'd have to start over or call for help.

Over the survival vest and torso harness went a 38 caliber pistol Most didn't consider the 38 much of a weapon so some either replaced it with something heavier like a 357 Magnum, or even carried them both. Small Derringers hidden in odd places were also popular.
The standard navy survival knife was about ten inches long and stashed in a vest pocket. During survival training in the Philippines, pilots rapidly learned how worthless it was for getting through the jungle. The Negritos, who were our guides and instructors, had a nice side business going making jungle knives that they sold to air crews. They were eighteen inch long monsters forged out of automobile springs with handles made of horn. Some pilots laced one of these big knives onto their G-suits. There'd be a baby bottle on one leg and this fearsome looking blade on the other.
Add extra ammo, pencil flares, candy bars, etc. etc., and a flight ready aviator had quite a load.


Combat Ready.
Party Ready.

At least one Skyhawk was configured as a "Convertible".  :) China Lake BuNo 152072 and LT .COL. Bennie "Bulldog" Summers and unknown Marine with calibration equipment.  Navy photo.

152072n.jpg 152072o.jpg

The Preflight Check-list for the A-4A/B contained 82 items, just for the exterior of the aircraft. The check-list grew as more hardware was added in later modifications and models.
The A-4E/F models had about 97 items on the check-list for just the exterior of the a/c. Once inside the cockpit their were another 25 items to check in the cockpit interior, and then 55 or more switch positions to check before starting the a/c. OR you could just "kick the tires", and then "light the fire".

Tommy Thomason on the Backer and Charlie nose differences.


Nose Stickers

What is the text in the white circles?
Pawel Mankowski

Markings on the canopy are stickers (think they were an overall silver color).
The Rectangular one reads:
Caution (in red letters) plastic canopies scratch easily. Clean only with water and/or approved cleaner. See Handbook on maintenance instructions or AN(#)
The square one reads:
Caution (centered red letters) See handbook on maintenance Instructions before tightening Screws on plexiglas. Cracking may result. The text is all caps.
The text below the star was associated with the canopy release which usually had the "text" canopy release below it. All caps, white text as it was on the blue background.
The text below the side number 36 reads: Disconnect electrical wiring before removing nose. Again black lettering, all caps.

Don't know about the one on the nose, although I've also seen the "remove elect wiring" warning in that location.
Gary Verver.

What Gary has said makes sense, except for the lettering below the "36," which refers to the static source plate below the lettering. From a photo in my file (see below), I can zoom in and it appears to say; "INSTRUMENT STATIC SOURCE," then below that it says; "DO NOT ????? OR PAINT". I can't read the one word, but it seems to have 4 or 5 letters. The same text would also on the other side, above the static source plate (referred to in my A-4C/L NATOPS as "Static orifice").

From the same photo, the statement on the nose, was located just above the nose release mechanism on the starboard side and is probably the text mentioned by Gary concerning disconnecting the electrical wiring. I can't read the statement, but can clearly see a red "CAUTION" above the statement in another cropped photo. On the port side, it is most likely below the release lever as shown in the photo you sent, Pawel, which would have been done because the brake fluid viewing window is above the nose release lever. Dave Dollarhide.


Starboard vents: A starboard side close-up of a 1965 A-4C of VA-113 showing vents and one of the attachment points for hoisting. The small dark upside down canoe on top is the anti-collision light, and the vertical line is the break point for removing that tail and thus the engine. "Boom" Powell


TA-4F 154332 Angle of Attack

What is the view (small round Plexiglass) port at the upper rear corner of the access plate above the center hinge on the rudder for? It allowed the rudder snubber/damper to be checked, and checking it was part of the pre-flight. How many plane captains or pilots actually walked back there straddling the vertical fin and hopped onto one of the elevators to check it? Few plane captains, and fewer pilots would be my guess. Gary Verver


BuNo 158716 TA-4J at the Combat Air Museum, Forbes Field, Topeka KS.

Hmmm. Something missing?

Some preflights are tougher than others!

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