Douglas A-1 Skyraider - Malta

The plane

The Douglas Skyraider is an American single-seat attack aircraft that was in service between the late 1940s and early 1980s. They were boasting a remarkably long and successful career in the US Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. Furthermore, they did some service also in the British Royal Navy and French Air Force, amongst others.

The Douglas Skyraider was designed by Ed Heinemann of the Douglas Aircraft Company towards the end of the Second World War. The US demanded a carrier-based, single-seat, long-range and high-performance dive-torpedo bomber. The Douglas Skyraider was renowned for its low-speed manoeuvrability as well as its talent for carrying a large amount of ordinance over an extensive combat distance. Whilst its design and production did not allow for use during the Second World War, the Douglas Skyraider became the backbone of US efforts in the Korean War (1950-1953) and in the Vietnam War (1955-1975). By the end of the Douglas Skyraider’s production life, seven versions had been manufactured, with a total of 3,180 units built.

The dive

An aircraft wreck site located off the southern coast of Birżebbuġia. It can be identified as the Douglas A-1 Skyraider, serial code 09236, that was piloted by Lt Robert HL Reeb. This Skyraider was one of four aircraft tasked with mail duties between the Ħal Far airfield and the aircraft carrier USS Midway. The aircraft carrier was commissioned a week after the end of the Second World War. She was the largest ship in the world until 1955.

History

In October 1947, the USS Midway was on her first annual deployment with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. In December 1947, Lt Reeb’s Skyraider suffered a total engine failure. It happened only minutes after taking off from Ħal Far. The attempts at restarting the engine were not successful. The aircraft struck the sea at a slight angle with wheels and flaps up and at an estimated speed of 75 to 90 knots. The pilot left the cockpit and utilised the aircraft’s emergency dinghy. The Skyraider remained afloat for approximately a minute and a half, before sinking beneath the surface. Lt Reeb was rescued by a Sikorsky HO3S Dragonfly Helicopter, dispatched from the USS Midway. This was also the first documented helicopter rescue in the Mediterranean.

This is a boat dive where you will descend and ascend using a reference line. Because of her depth, minimum Advanced Trimix certification required.