TA-4F flown by Jared ‘Rook’ Isaacman and Ret Lt Col. Mike ‘Buick’
Eberhardt. Photo by Tyson V. Rininger / www.tvrphoto
AirVenture boasts two flying
civilian-owned A-4 Skyhawk attack jets, including a two-seat TA-4F from
the Collings Foundation, flown by Jared Isaacman; and an older A-4B
piloted by Paul Wood.
From the prolific design team of Ed
Heinemann at Douglas Aircraft came aircraft as diverse as the
piston-engine A-1 Skyraider and the compact jet-propelled A-4 Skyhawk.
Heinemann embraced a keep-it-simple design philosophy since his days in
World War II, where he witnessed a design-gone-wrong
because it tried to be all things to all people.
Instead, he learned to focus on the
primary task at hand, and to shun extraneous—nice, but not necessary—frills.
One of his masterpieces of simplicity is the diminutive Skyhawk,
sometimes called Scooter, or simply Heinemann’s Hot Rod.
Space is at a premium on aircraft
carriers, and the Scooter conserves it with a wingspan of only 27 feet,
6 inches and a length under 42 feet. A fast subsonic attack jet, the A-4
also served from 1974-1986 as the mount of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels
demonstration team. A-4s flew from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers off the
coast of Vietnam to deliver bombs on targets throughout U.S. involvement
The non-profit Collings Foundation
received its TA-4 through congressional action in the fall of 2000. By
2005, the aircraft was rebuilt and flying in U.S. Marine Corps colors.
Pilot Jared Isaacson said the two-seat aircraft evolved from pure
trainer versions of the A-4 into the TA-4F that was armed and combat
Isaacson is not a former military fighter
pilot. He worked his way into the pilot’s seat of the A-4 following
experience in business jets and imported L-39 jet trainers. Jared smiles
broadly as he talks about his role as the TA-4 pilot: “It’s a
privilege to hang out with the military pilots,” he says.
What’s it like to fly a
high-performance jet at AirVenture? Again comes the disarming smile as
he acknowledges feeling nervous before demonstrating the A-4 during
Wednesday’s air show; he describes an earnest desire to do well before
the Oshkosh crowd. Before his flight on Thursday, he figured he had “Oshkosh-itis”
There’s another thing that needs to be
said about Jared Isaacman: that genuine smile and easygoing nature
belies the fact he started a financial organization at age 16 in his
parents’ basement, growing it into a $10 billion payment processing
company. He has been named one of Business Week’s “30 Best
Entrepreneurs under the age of 30.”
Did Ed Heinemann succeed in keeping the
A-4 simple? “He’s a hundred percent on the money on that,”
There are several morals to this story:
Keep it simple when designing a jet; follow your dreams and you, too,
can be a fighter pilot; and it is possible to be a wildly successful
young entrepreneur while remaining disarmingly self-effacing.