|When I was young I was obsessed with the four-engined B-17 bomber from World War II. I built countless models of the famous bomber, drew doodles of B-17s bombing factories on my school papers, and was mesmerized by getting to see the Commemorative Air Force’s B-17G ‘Sentimental Journey’ up close and personal for the first time. To this day I still love that aircraft. It was rugged, powerful, and had an impressive arsenal. So when my dad told me that the AH-1 Skyraider, a single seat Navy dive bomber, could deliver the same payload as a B-17 (8000lbs or 3600kg of ordnance), I was amazed and instantly made it one of my favourite aircraft.
During World War II, the US Navy needed to replace its aging Dauntless dive-bomber. The Douglas Aircraft company went to work developing a replacement. After a few false starts and fierce competition from aircraft-designer rivals such as Boeing and Curtis, Douglas produced the magnificent XBT2D-1, which was quickly nicknamed the Dauntless II.
The Dauntless II first took to the air on 18 March 1945 and its trial flights greatly exceeded the Navy’s expectations and blew away all of the competing airframes. It was powerful, rugged, and extremely easy to maintain. The Navy instantly ordered nearly 600 planes and designated the plane as the AD-1 Skyraider in February 1946.
The airframe was incredibly rugged and could carry up to 8000lbs (3600kg) of ordnance, the equivalent or superior to many of its contemporary bombers. The plane’s fuel capacity meant that it could spend up to 10 hours in the air, meaning it could stay on station and help local troops for a very long time. It also had a pair of 20mm cannons, one in each wing to offer additional firepower.
The Skyraider entered seamlessly into the Navy’s service. A few structural problems were ironed out and the aircraft became a quick favourite for the pilots. The Skyraider’s remarkable and versatile payload also appealed to the US Marines who also used the aircraft to support its strike forces.