While it’s not a painting or an intricate sculpture, this fighter jet display at Sam Wise Youth Complex in Altoona is still a stunning work of art. Plus, it has a powerful meaning and decades-long history behind it.
You may be wondering…what kind of aircraft is this? What was this type of plane used for? And why is it here?
Let’s find out!
This full-size refurbished LTV A-7D Corsair II light attack aircraft is the centerpiece of a Veterans memorial display at Sam Wise Youth Complex. It was brought to the City of Altoona in the late 1990s by the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
WHAT KIND OF AIRCRAFT IS THIS?
This aircraft is a Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) A-7D Corsair II, usually referred to as the A-7D. It’s a single-seat, carrier-capable subsonic light attack aircraft that was utilized heavily during the Vietnam War.
It was designed to replace the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, boasting improvements such as a higher maximum takeoff capacity and increased accuracy. Essentially, the jet was able to fly farther during its missions, carry more bombs and missiles, and deliver them much closer to their intended targets.
The Navy added the A-7D to their arsenal in 1968, with the Air Force and Air National Guard following suit a few years later.
- Engine: One Allison TF41 turbofan engine of 14,250 lbs. thrust
- Maximum speed: 663 mph
- Cruising speed: 545 mph
- Range: 3,044 miles
- Ceiling: 33,500 ft.
- Span: 38 ft. 8 in.
- Length: 46 ft. 1 in.
- Height: 16 ft. 1 in.
- Weight: 39,325 lbs. (loaded)
WHAT WAS THIS TYPE OF PLANE USED FOR?
The A-7D was utilized by the Navy and the Air Force during the Vietnam War to carry out strafing, low-altitude bombing, and missile attacks on ground forces.
Its endurance, agility, and precision made the plane a truly formidable tactical air support asset.
According to The National Museum of the United States Airforce, “The Corsair II achieved its excellent accuracy with the aid of an automatic electronic navigation and weapons delivery system. Although designed primarily as a ground attack aircraft, it also had limited air-to-air combat capability.”
After the Vietnam War ended, large numbers of A-7Ds were reassigned to Air National Guard squadrons for peacetime operations.
They were mostly used as pilot training aircraft and chase planes in the 1980s, during the development of the F-117. A-7Ds also found another interesting use during this period—deception. They were left out in the open near secret development sites (where the F-117s remained hidden) to give Soviet spy satellites the false impression that America had an obsolete aircraft arsenal.
Though the A-7D’s run pretty much ended with the conclusion of the Vietnam War, its successor (the updated A-7E configuration) continued to fly in combat missions during later conflicts.
The A-7E saw action in Grenada, Lebanon, Libya, Operation Desert Shield, and Operation Desert Storm before all types of A-7s were eventually retired in the 1990s.
WHY IS IT HERE?
The National Museum of the United States Air Force brought this aircraft to the City of Altoona in the late 1990s. It was in pretty rough condition when it arrived, missing an assortment of important parts and (most notably) its wings.
However, our community was determined to bring the A-7D back to life.
Local Altoonians got together and worked tirelessly to restore the mighty aircraft to its former glory and turn it into something new.
They spent countless hours battling technical challenges and harsh weather conditions, doing whatever was necessary to revitalize every little detail. In their minds, it was the least they could do to thank our veteran population and honor those we’ve lost.
After all, they weren’t just rebuilding a piece of machinery—they were creating a memorial.
In 1997, the refurbished A-7D was finally mounted and the surrounding flags were raised. It’s stood here above the ground ever since, never ceasing its mission of solemn remembrance.
The memorial jet display is a work of art all right, though its beauty is different from that of a painting or a sculpture. It’s a window to the past, a symbol of sacrifice. This masterpiece evokes inspiration to look back in time and honor the brave servicemen and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
DISCOVER MORE ART IN ALTOONA
Thank you for reading this edition of Masterpieces of Altoona! We’ll be regularly updating this blog with content about Altoona’s incredible public art displays, like this “Where the Wild Things Are”-themed mural. Be on the lookout for more Masterpieces of Altoona QR codes—you’ll find them at exhibits throughout the city!
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