RNZAF Solo Skyhawk Display

The A-4 Skyhawk was designed by the legendary Ed Heinemann, an early entrant into the American Aviation Hall of Fame.   He was also responsible for the Douglas Dauntless dive bomber and the Skyraider, as well as lesser known aircraft like the rocket-powered Skyrocket, the first plane to fly at Mach 2.   In this photo, you can see a Royal New Zealand Air Force A-4K Skyhawk releasing an anti-infrared missile flare as it dives with its smoke canister on.   They can also carry metal "chaff" as protection against radar guided missiles.

This is a Royal New Zealand Air Force Skyhawk flying in the so-called "dirty" configuration, with its wheels and tailhook extended.   The length of the landing gear and the existence of a tailhook clearly betray the Skyhawk's original purpose as an aircraft carrier based attack plane.   This begs the question, "How many aircraft carriers does New Zealand have?".   The answer is, "None, we never have had any, and we never will!".  But gee, the tailhook looks real cool, so why not keep it?

And here's another nifty accessory - an in-flight refuelling probe visible at the top left of the plane.   How many aerial refuelling tankers does New Zealand have?  None, and we never have had any!  But if you think that stops us from doing in-flight refuelling, then check out these photos!


The first 14 of New Zealand's Skyhawks were purchased directly from the United States in 1970.

New Zealand's other ten Skyhawks started entering service on the solitary Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne in 1967.

Australia scrapped the Melbourne in 1982, and in 1984 New Zealand bought the ten remaining planes for the bargain basement price of 28 million Australian dollars.  Australia started with 20 planes, but crashes and accidents reduced the numbers somewhat.

New Zealand has also had a few Whoopsies, today there are 19 aircraft still in service.


The Skyhawk first flew in 1955, entered service in 1957, and stayed in production for 25 years - a record for aircraft in the fighter/ground attack category.

They were used as dogfight opponents against F14 Tomcats in the US navy's Top Gun advanced fighter pilots' training programme, and at the time of writing this page in 1999 the US navy still has one A-4 squadron based in Mississippi, and another in Puerto Rico.

Skyhawks are subsonic, but even so, they can put on an exhilirating display, which is how they earned the nickname "Heinemann's Hotrod".

If these photos haven't convinced you of the Skyhawk's ability, then perhaps this spectacular piece de resistance will!

As the Skyhawk spirals nearly vertically upwards, it releases the flares which it carries as a defense against heat-seeking missiles.



...and away!