After about three years of hard work, the Castle Air Museum of Atwater, California’s 56th display plane was rolled into position last week. The Douglas RA-3B Skywarrior BuNo 144843 was shipped the the museum from a storage facility in Mojave, California in 2010 and is on long-term loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation. While the plane itself didn’t cost the museum anything, transportation and the multiyear restoration did represent a significant investment on the part of the museum’s donors and volunteer restoration crews.
The Douglas A-3 Skywarrior was originally designed as a strategic bomber for the United States Navy and was among the longest serving carrier-based aircraft in history. It entered service in the mid-1950s and was retired in 1991. Throughout its service, it was the heaviest and among the largest aircraft to operate from aircraft carriers where its prodigious 70,000 pound loaded weight and 72 foot wingspan, 76 foot length earned it the nickname “The Whale.” It’s large size, even with its wing tips folded made for a challenging plane for flight crews on the tight confines of an aircraft carrier, and while it was quickly supplanted as a strategic bomber, the Skywarriors’ attributes found them extensively utilized for conventional bombing, as an electronic warfare platform, tactical air reconnaissance platform, high capacity aerial refueling tanker and even as VIP transport assigned to the Chief of Naval Operations.
The Castle Air Museum’s Skywarrior will be officially dedicated at the museum’s May 26th Open Cockpit Day when many of the museum’s fleet of historic craft are opened up allowing visitors to get an up-close and personal look at the cockpits of their favorite warbird.