Giving History a Hand with Vintage Aircraft Restoration

Giving History a Hand with Vintage Aircraft Restoration

by Denice Rackley

Reprinted from

Desire and purpose have fueled the aircraft industry since the first planes took flight. Nowhere is that more evident than in Southern California, which is home to many aviation pioneers like the Lougheed brothers, Donald Douglas and Glenn Martin.

North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco | Courtesy of Air Classics Magazine and Michael O’Leary

Like those aviation pioneers, two marines, W.H. Beckett and Lt. Col. K.P. Rice, built a prototype in their Santa Ana garage of what would become one of the most versatile planes ever. The original idea was to create a rugged, all-terrain airplane that could fly faster than the military helicopters of the 1960s, but slow enough to provide support for ground troops. Beckett and Rice designed the plane to have a 20-foot wingspan featuring a turboprop with a high boom tail to avoid backblast from weapons, that was also light enough to be able to float. It was such a success that North American Aviation bought the design, which was then sold to the military. The final product off the assembly line was the OV-10 Bronco; however, it had a 40-foot wingspan, was larger and heavier to accommodate munitions and ejection seats, and it would not be able to float. 

First used in Vietnam as a forward air command aircraft to protect ground troops, these Broncos were known to fly ‘low and slow,’ just what was needed over the rivers, muddy fields and coastal regions of Vietnam. The OV-10’s design sets it apart from all other aircraft because the double-booms connected by a tail-pane increased stability, while the wings set further back on the plane increased lift. It had superior endurance and was able to fly long missions lasting nearly six hours. The plane was far lighter than most, saving on fuel and enabling a safe takeoff and landing without a long runway. The 360-degree visibility from the cockpit was superior to any other plane being flown at the time. Ample room behind the cockpit also allowed for the transportation of men, equipment and enabled medical evacuations.

Agility, maneuverability, endurance and increased visibility when flying all worked together to provide the perfect reconnaissance plane. The OV-10 Broncos were supposed to have a three-year lifespan, but they surpassed all expectations, continuing to serve for 30-plus years. OV-10 Broncos serve in multiple capacities for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marines and SEALS and were used in action from Vietnam to the first Desert Storm. Today, they continue to serve in Southern California outside of the military as firefighting aircraft for Cal Fire. 

Nightingale’s team is in the process of restoring a Bronco from the Navy squadron known as the “Black Ponies.” “I am fortunate to have a few great pilots that flew this plane come into the shop, share stories with me and volunteer to assist in the restoration,” he says. “At air shows, I hear from veterans who remember these planes and the pilots as the one reason they are alive today. These planes are an important piece of history for us all.”

Nightingale recounts the history of the first Broncos, saying the Black Ponies were the go-to fighting squadron in Vietnam for close combat missions. Flying the OV-10A Bronco, the Light Attack Squadron 4, or VAL 4, was deployed in 1969 in Vietnam to the Mekong Delta. Flying their Broncos “down and dirty, low and slow” they saved more U.S. and allied troops with close-air support during this three-year period than all other naval squadrons combined.

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Historic Vietnam Aircraft Takes Flight as part of World’s Largest Private Restoration Project

Historic Vietnam Aircraft Takes Flight as part of World’s Largest Private Restoration Project

Entrepreneur Mike Manclark celebrates first of seven restored Broncos as their original Vietnam pilots watch on in wonder.

CHINO, CALIFORNIA, USA, July 18, 2019 — The Chino skies were filled with a little piece of American history today as the first of seven, OV-10 Broncos took flight after an 18 month-long restoration. Local entrepreneur Mike Manclark, a long-time supporter of America’s military vets and a pilot himself, undertook the ground-breaking restoration project after finding an entire squadron of the famed warbirds wasting away in an open field in Texas.

As part of the OV10 Squadron project, two of the aircraft’s original pilots, serving with the Black Ponies in Vietnam were on hand to witness the historic event, and will soon have the opportunity to fly the aircraft again for the first time in 50 years.

After an incredibly long road, the largest OV-10 restoration project in the world is celebrating it’s first big win, as the first of an entire squadron of aircraft under restoration takes flight.

Mike Manclark, Leader, OV10 Squadron

“After an incredibly long road, the largest OV-10 restoration project in the world is celebrating it’s first big win, as the first of an entire squadron of aircraft under restoration takes flight,” said Mike Manclark, leader of the OV-10 Squadron project. Mike, an aviation entrepreneur is also founder of The Mangic Foundation which supports a number of military charities and causes. “Given my background, I can’t think of a better way to honor, respect and protect the legacy of our veterans than by keeping their stories alive through flight. We’re incredibly grateful for the support we’ve across the country, and can’t wait to unveil even more amazing transformations in the months and years ahead.”

Known for their unusual appearance, heavy firepower and ability to take off and land in near impossible conditions, the Broncos are regarded as one of the most versatile warbirds in history, first being introduced in the 1960s to provide close air support for troops in the Vietnam War. Their versatility made these aircraft the workhorses of many American campaigns, and the Broncos went on to tackle just about every mission an airplane could have for the USAF, the Marines, the Navy, SEALS and a number of other foreign countries. In fact, many of the Broncos went on fight in Desert Storm, combat cocaine in South America, and punish ISIS targets in the Middle East before reaching their eventual retirement.

This first OV-10 is part of a multi-year plan to bring an entire squadron back to life so they can be enjoyed by the public and serve as a flying memorial. This is one of the largest, private restoration efforts in the country. And the largest – and only – private collection of OV-10 Broncos in the world.

For more information on the restoration of the OV-10 Broncos, visit

About OV-10 Squadron
Committed to the restoration and continued support of flying the OV-10 Bronco, the OV-10 Squadron is an organization that is rebuilding a squadron of seven OV-10D Broncos at Chino Airport in Southern California (KCNO). The aircraft meticulously rebuilt and repaired to the highest standards of restoration and will ultimately serve as a flying memorial at airshows across America.

Launched in 2012 by successful entrepreneur Mike Manclark, the MANGIC Foundation believes in hands-on work that gives people a hand up and making a tangible difference in the lives of those they help. Every year, the MANGIC foundation supports dozens of non-profits and causes that support children, armed forces and first responders, along with families in need. For more information on the MANGIC Foundation and how you can get involved, visit

For more information, contact:
Mike Maloney
Ph: 902-225-4989

Mike Maloney
Right Hook Public Relations
+1 902-225-4989
email us here

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