PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- As the sound of two Pratt and Whitney jet engines echoed through the San Jacinto Mountain Range, one of the last four Navy EA-6B ‘Prowler’ fixed-wing aircraft still in service, made its triumphant final fly-by over the Palm Springs Air Museum, Nov. 21, 2014.
“It was truly an honor to see such a great aircraft make its final voyage,” said Air Force veteran Don Broadhurst, ramp boss, Palm Springs Air Museum.
More than 300 people attended the retirement ceremony to witness the final flight of the aircraft that had been in service since 1987. The A-6 style fixed-wing aircraft has been in service with the U.S. military since the 1960s and part of the Navy’s aerial fleet since 1971 providing electronic warfare support and attack capabilities.
“It was an honor to fly this piece of history, and I have a good feeling that [the museum] is going to take good care of the aircraft,” said Navy Cmdr. Kirk Christofferson, executive officer of Electronic Attack Squadron 134.
VAQ 134 is an electronic warfare squadron based out of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. The now retired aircraft, which was most recently part of the squadron, returned to the United States after being deployed aboard the Nimitz-class Supercarrier, U.S.S George H.W. Bush, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“We received the aircraft on permanent loan from the Navy,” Broadhurst said. “The aircraft is going to be gutted and made into a display for the museum.”
After the aircraft landed, it taxied under a water arch, which is a traditional farewell for retiring aircraft. The arch was provided by the Palm Springs Fire Department.
The Navy EA-6B style aircraft is being replaced by the EA-18G ‘Growler,’ which is a variant of the F-18 style fixed-wing aircraft. The Marine Corps will still use the A-6 variants of the aircraft until a replacement is found. With the retirement of the last three aircraft, the Navy ends a chapter in aviation that was started more than 40 years ago and begins another chapter into the future with its new aircraft.