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Historic Warplane Departs Skagit for Museum Duty

Burlington – An unusual warplane that had been a fixture on the apron at Skagit Regional Airport for many years departed for Seattle’s Museum of Flight in early November.

The plane, a rare Lockheed YO-3A “Quiet Star,” was developed for the U.S. Army in 1970 as a low-altitude, low-speed, ultra-quiet reconnaissance aircraft to gather intelligence at night in the skies over Vietnam. Modified from a Schweitzer sailplane with the addition of a heavily muffled engine and military equipment, nine YO-3As flew missions in Vietnam for two years without a single one of them being shot down or even hit by enemy fire.

The Quiet Stars were returned to the U.S. at the end of the war, and most were sold as surplus. YO-3A serial number 69-18005 was eventually purchased by Skagit County aviation enthusiast Bruce Elliott, who stored the gray-camouflaged aircraft at Skagit Regional. In the fall of 2009 Elliott arranged to donate the airplane, along with spare parts and a complete reconnaissance package, to the Museum of Flight.

Volunteers from the museum’s restoration facility at Paine Field in Everett spent much of the summer dismantling the YO-3A, and on Nov. 4 they loaded the last pieces, including the fuselage and wing panels, aboard a trailer for the drive down I-5 to Everett.

According to an article in the Museum of Flight’s magazine, Aloft, the museum plans to restore the YO-3A to full Vietnam-era configuration and markings for display. When that happens, the little YO-3A will present quite a contrast to the museum’s other notable reconnaissance warplane, an ultra-high-performance Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird.”  

If you are a reporter seeking information about the Port of Skagit, please call Andrew Entrikin, community outreach administrator, at 360-757-0011 or email andrew@portofskagit.com