Sixty three year ago today a Navy A-4 set a speed record. Navy Lieutenant Gordon Gray Jr. flew the naval bird at an average speed of 695 mph. Here’s how it happened.
It was a period of aircraft production that was flabbergasting for his prodigious accomplishments. The Air Force was working on the Century series (F-100 (above left), F-101 (above right), etc.) while the Navy was designing a new attack jet that could operate from aircraft carriers.
The Douglas Company (later merging with McDonnell) was working the twin engine jet. It was designated the YA4D-1. The “Y” designates an experimental pre-production aircraft. It was to be a light attack bomber.
On October 15, 1955, Navy Lieutenant Gordon (Gordo) Gray climbed aboard the aircraft. It was powered by two Curtiss-Wright turbojets engines. The goal was to fly a 500 kilometer course as quickly as possible.
Gordo flew the jet around the closed course averaging over 1,100 kilometers per hour. The jet nimbly flew around the 310 mile course with voracious speed. The average speed of 695.128 miles per hour was good for a new world record. For some great photos see: https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/
The plane was go on to enter production as the A-4 Skyhawk. Production began in 1956 and continyued for the next 23 years. It was a long lasting bird. The final plane was retired from the Navy in 2003.
The A-4 recently gained fame with the earthly passing of Senator John McCain (https://www.doctoraviation.com/john-mccain-obituary-the-aviator-and-naval-officer/) . McCain piloted the jet during the Vietnam War. A wonderful firsthand account of that flight and McCain’s naval aviation career can be found at: http://www.check-six.com/Crash_Sites/McCain-Skyhawk.htm
But it all began 63 years ago with Gordo Gray and the A-4 that set the speed record.