Updated: Jul 11, 2021
By Greg Ely
This is a short history of the Museum's TA-4J Skyhawk that has been named "Ladyhawk" by my daughter, Elizabeth. This aircraft had a pretty interesting history because she spent almost her entire life as a weapons test plane at NAS China Lake and probably fired every missile in the naval inventory. As far as military aircraft go, she had a pretty good life.....well taken care of, didn't have the rigors of carrier life, and got to bask in the warm sun of the California desert. She came to the, then, Western Aerospace Museum, in 1997 and was demiled, but in pretty good shape even though a lot of cockpit parts were missing, along with the seats, but it would make a great addition to the museum.
After re-assembly, she sat in the yard for a couple of years until my daughter came to me and asked if she, and some other students from Notre Dame High School in Belmont, could find something at the museum for their senior project. I told her that we were planning on restoring the TA-4 for future display, and thought it'd be a good idea to try and add all the components needed to finish the cockpit, and other items. She was also in need of basic maintenance on control surfaces, pylons, landing gear & hydraulics.
Over the next 8 months, Lyzzy, as she was called, and a small group of girls from the school found all the parts needed, and got her pretty much back together. They named her Ladyhawk, after a Marvel comic character in the Spiderman series......and her personality was born! After the project was completed, and the girls graduated, Lyzz continued to come to the museum with me and work on all the planes, but Ladyhawk was her favorite. She pretty much called her "my plane", and continued improvements for many years. This included installing a number of sub-systems such as the ATM (Air Turbine Motor) for emergency electrical power, new pylons for under wing stores, and even installing new landing gear & brakes.
Over the years, Ladyhawk has become one of the most popular displays at OAM, and on Open Cockpit days, there's always a line to come up and see the inside of a fighter! In early 2017, Lyzz passed away, but the legacy of Ladyhawk will live on. She's getting a bit weary, and not looking her best, but she's on the list for a new paint job and all we have to do is find the time. Very soon, work will start on getting the TA-4 touched up and prepped for paint and I'm sure everyone will be pleased with the results.....but as with all big projects, it takes time and some good weather! Stay tuned, and we'll keep you all informed on Ladyhawk's progress, and remember, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL AIR MUSEUM..!
Total airframe hours - 4078.7
Total number of landings - 6579
Total number of arrested landings - 8
Total number of cat launches - 0
Here's some history of the OAM's TA-4......
· Accepted 19 Jan, 1968
· Assigned to ATKRON-93 31 Dec 1968
· Assigned to VA-93 30 Apr 1969
· Assigned to RVAH-3 30 June 1969
· Assigned to NAF China Lake 30 July 1970
· Redesignated to NTA-4J from TA-4J 1 Dec 1984
· From the logbook....."26 March 96 Effective this date, NTA-4J Buno 154332 striken from Naval inventory IAW CNASC Washington DC MSG 182303Z March 96 (strike authorization)
· Signed.......B. R. Hileman NTWS China Lake Ca."