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Whidbey News Times September 9, 2005

Move of the Intruder

By Jessie Stensland

The seagulls have won.

For years, the birds dropped their splattery white bombs on the A-6 Intruder aircraft on display at Oak Harbor’s waterfront, near the RV park.

Tuesday night, Mayor Patty Cohen announced that the city and Navy are working together to move the airplane away from the seagulls, possibly to a site at the intersection of Highway 20 and Ault Field Road.

Councilman Paul Brewer was pleased.

“It’s long overdue...” he said. “The seagulls have been raising Cain on it.”

Harbormaster Dave Williams, a former A-6 bombardier/navigator, said the airplane needs to be repaired after weathering years in the windy, salt-watery area. The Navy and volunteers plan to move it to a hangar later this month, where it will be repaired.

Williams said the new site for the A-6 hasn’t been finalized, but officials are considering the possibility of placing it on Navy land near the Ault Field base, where the “sound of freedom” billboard used to stand.

The plane is on loan from the National Museum of Aviation in Pensacola and has been on display at City Beach since 1996.

The unsightly fence was later installed around it to keep kids from climbing on the old workhorse.

This particular A-6 was one of many that once flew over Whidbey Island at over 600 miles per hour. The “twin-engine, carrier-based, all-weather attack aircraft,” as Williams described it, was retired from the U.S. Navy at a ceremony held at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Feb. 28, 1998. VA-196 was the last squadron to fly the Intruder at Whidbey.

The A-6 was designed by Grumman in the 1950s to fly in all weather, navigate in total darkness and carry a large payload. The versatile aircraft delivered more ordnance over Vietnam that did the B-52, bombed Libya in 1986 and was used extensively in Operation Desert Storm, according to www.globalsecurity.org.

Williams recommends that anyone who wants to learn more about the A-6 should read the book, “Flight of the Intruder,” but avoid the movie. The book was written by his former squadron mate, Stephen Coonts.

“The movie was hokey as can be,” he said. “The book was good.”

Williams said that moving the A-6 from the park is part of tourism consultant Roger Brooks’ waterfront redevelopment plan. While not a big step, it is a sign that the plan is moving forward.

Of course, the A-6 Intruder may not be completely safe at a new site. Williams pointed out that the mischievous seagulls may follow it, wherever it goes.

Copyright 2005, Whidbey News Times