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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Centennial's Skyraider

This A-1D Skyraider, BuNo. 126822, is one of only five Skyraiders still flying in the world. It is flown by Bob Heckendorf, starring in the 69th Special Operations Group (SOG) spectacular airshows.

Built by Douglas Aircraft in 1952, this Skyraider was originally assigned to Carrier Air Group 9 aboard the USS Philippine Sea. In 1953 it was damaged by enemy fire over North Korea, but was returned to service following repairs. Skyraider 822 saw action again while deployed in 1964 off the coast of Vietnam with the redesignated Carrier Air Wing 9. Finally, after serving a stint with the French Air Force in Southeast Asia, the Skyraider flew back to the U.S. in 1977.
Bob Heckendorf eventually purchased this veteran Skyraider from a museum. He acquired it because the A-1D was so important to the search and rescue mission in Southeast Asia, which is the focus of the 69th SOG airshows. Looking somewhat ungainly on static display before the show, the 25,000-pound giant thrills the crowds once airborne by nimbly performing dives, rolls, and loops propelled by the 3,018 horsepower water injection radial engine — a Wright Cyclone R-3350-26WA 18-cylinder dual row — and guided by the deft touch of Heckendorf. The Skyraider can travel at a maximum speed of 402 knots (462 mph). This Skyraider has a single pilot cockpit, but some variants with larger cockpits and fuselage seats carried a crew of four. It has a range of 1400nm, and can carry conventional or nuclear weapons, as well as four 20mm cannons, and hauls up to 8,000 lbs. of ordnance under its wings — more than a B-17 bomber.

This authentic combat veteran helps Heckendorf and his crew of the 69th SOG bring the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) motto to life: “Never leave a man behind.” The 69th uses airplanes representative of combat aircraft flown in Southeast Asia on actual CSAR missions in their shows. The team, including flight and ground crews and explosives experts, is comprised of current and former personnel from the U.S. Military. The Denver Centennial Airport-based group deploys its own pyrotechnics on the ground, coordinated with action in the air. Pilots use hot mikes to broadcast realistic combat chatter to the crowd. The result is a fast-paced and stunning display of firepower.

For more information on the A-1D Skyraider and the 69th SOG visit their web site at, or write: 69th Battalion - Special Operations Group, P.O. Box 24286, Denver, CO, 80224, or call 303-782-3681.

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
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