On 2/20/64, the USN Douglas A-4E Skyhawk #150077 was one of four A-4s out of NAS Lemoore that were on a flight to practice aerial refueling, bomb and rocket deliveries and defensive tactics. The group of A-4s met up with the tanker at approximately 12,500 feet MSL and headed towards the target area with the A-4s practicing refueling enroute. The four aircraft, NL506, NL505, NL510 and NL504, in that order, all made routine plug-ins and received a token amount of fuel, 20-30 gallons. The exercise was repeated and another round of plug-ins commenced. NL505, NL506, and NL510 preformed the operation normally, but a small amount of fuel sprayed from the store drogue onto the windshield of NL510 when it unplugged, a common occurrence. Next Lt. Edward A. Dickson in NL504 moved into position and executed what appeared to be a smooth plug-in with an excellent closure rate. As NL504 pushed the drogue in, fuel began streaming from the drogue basket at a high rate and sprayed over the aircraft nose, canopy and into the engine intake ducts. Lt. Dickson radioed to the tanker telling him to turn the transfer off and at the same time reduced the throttle to at or near idle in attempt to back away from the drogue. The ingested fuel caused fumes in the cockpit and Lt. Dickson diverted his attention momentarily to place the air conditioning system to RAM AIR. NL504 moved under the tanker in spite of the throttle being at idle. Lt. Dickson then extended the speed brakes and NL504 back free from the drogue. The period during which fuel initially started streaming from the drogue until it stopped after NL504 backed free was 10 to 15 seconds. The ingested fuel damaged the engine and caused a compressor stall. Lt. Dickson entered a 180-190 knot glide with the throttle at idle which did not change the compressor stall condition. Next he shifted to manual fuel control and shortly thereafter advanced the throttle to about three quarters of full throttle position in an effort to stop his sink rate. There was no noticeable power response or any change in the compressor stall condition. At this time Lt. Dickson realized he would not clear the ridge ahead and ejected from the aircraft. The ESCAPAC seat fired but the parachute did not deploy due to the fact that the elevation of the terrain was too high to allow normal parachute deployment using the automatic features of the egress system and Lt. Dickson did not have time to manually deploy his parachute prior to ground impact. The pilot impacted on a 10 degree down slope near the top of a ridge in approximately 30 inches of snow and bounced 43 feet and hit a pine tree. The pilot only sustained moderate injuries consisting of a broken femur and a fractured ankle of the right leg. The pilot attempted to signal to his flight using 5 rounds of .38 caliber tracer ammunition with no success. Then he ignited the day smoke end of a MK 13 MOD O distress signal which was immediately seen by members of the flight. An Air Force HH 43 helicopter effected rescue at about 1450.
After surviving the ejection from his A-4E over the Sierra Mountains, Lt. Edward A. Dickson was killed in action on 2/7/65 during Operation Flaming Dart over North Vietnam. He was flying the A-4E BuNo 150075 with the VA-155 off the carrier USS Coral Sea. Due to low clouds and rain the strikers flew in at a attitude of only 700 feet. As they started their attack run, Dicksons Skyhawk shuddered and burst into flames when hit by 37mm flak. With his aircraft trailing a 50 foot stream of flame, he radioed that he was staying with the burning A-4 to continue his attack run. Soon afterward, he dropped his bombs then turned heading for the sea, but by now his A-4 was engulfed in flames forcing him to eject. Unfortunately his parachute did not deploy and he was considered lost at sea, killed in action. In 1985, twenty years later, the Vietnamese returned his ID card. Lt Dickson received a posthumous Navy Cross in recognition of staying with his burning aircraft and completing the mission. It was the first award of the Navy highest citation for aerial action in Vietnam and the first for an A-4 pilot.