Editorial: Save “The Whale,” preserve history

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve in Central Whidbey is treasured for its rich history and its working landscape in which the agriculture tradition has continued. Likewise, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station has a fascinating history and its own sort of working landscape. From the venerable, World War II-era PBY Catalinas to the fancy new EA-18G Growlers, the base has a unique place in aviation and military history. A local group is working to fly an important, perhaps lesser-known, piece of the base’s history back to Oak Harbor, but they need to raise money quickly to keep a storied aircraft from the junk heap.

The A-3 Skywarrior Whidbey Memorial Foundation needs to raise $50,000 by May in order to fly one of the planes to Oak Harbor. After the airplane’s last flight over the city, it will be turned into a static display on Ault Field Road. It would be an impressive sight, to say the least, and a fitting tribute to the men and women who worked with the plane.

The A-3 Skywarrior originally was a Cold War bomber designed to carry nuclear weapons. The A-3 jet was nicknamed “The Whale” because it was one of heaviest aircraft ever flown from an aircraft carrier. They were flown out of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station from 1957 to 1968. For a short time, NAS Whidbey was at the forefront of the nation’s nuclear deterrent effort when an A-3 Heavy Attack Wing was stationed here. The wing on Whidbey would later transition to the EA-3 variant, known as “the Electric Whale,” which eventually formed the nucleus for EA-6B Prowler community, according to the Warbird Resource Group.

Donation forms are available at the Command Display in building 12 on the Seaplane Base, or on the Skywarrior Foundation Web site www.A3SkywarriorAssociation.com under the tab “Whidbey Project.”

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