” Gotta tell you, this thing flies just incredibly smooth!” stat- ed Matt Nightingale from the front seat of the just-restored North American OV-10D+ Bronco BuNo 155493 registered NX97854. It was the late afternoon of 1 July and Matt, along with test/instructor pilot Eric Huppert, was orbiting southwest of Chino Airport and adding hour number seven after a complete restoration by Matt’s California Aerofab. While just about every aviation enthusiast can easily recognize the dis- tinctive shape of the OV-10, not that many can recite facts and figures involv- ing the Bronco. Developed during the 1960s to cater to the new counterinsur- gency (COIN) mission, the OV-10, which first flew on 16 July 1965, was a multi-mission bird that could carry three tons of external weapons as well as internal loads of paratroopers or a medic and stretchers. Right from start, design- ers gave the aircraft a long loiter capabil- ity and it could stay airborne for three- to four-hours.
Chino Bad Boys: Mark Moodie, camera plane pilot; Matt
Nightingale, photo mission pilot and owner of California Aerofab;
Eric Huppert, test/instructor pilot.
The OV-10D+ comes in for a smooth landing at the end of the
Intended to be a tri-service aircraft, the Bronco would go on to become one of America’s top — and toughest — COIN aircraft for nearly three decades. It would also serve with air forces friendly to America while operating with various government agencies. First acquired by the US Marine Corps, Broncos would be extensively deployed in Southeast Asia and some 81 aircraft would be lost — USAF losing 64, USN seven, and Marines ten. The original variant was the OV-10A and the USAF would get 157 while the Marines would receive 114. Demand (and attrition) was such that airframes were constantly upgraded. The OV-10D was a “second generation” Bronco developed under the Night Observation Gunship System (NOGS) program and these would be extensively modified OV-10As fitted with forward-looking infrared night- vision system and a turret-mounted cam- era and gun under a greatly extended nose. It also had bigger engines and new fiberglass propellers along with chaff dis- pensers and infrared-suppressive exhaust stacks. Some 17 OV-10Ds were built from OV-10As and the OV-10D+ was the next USMC upgrade and consisted of A and D models being extensively reworked at MCAS Cherry Point with more upgrades. These aircraft saw ser-vice during the Gulf Wars and other Middle East actions. A few years back, southern California resident Mike “Mayhem” Manclark developed an interest in the Bronco and in 2018 he got a real coup — six decommissioned OV-10s that he loaded onto trucks to begin a 1300-mile trip to California Aero-fab at Chino. Stopping at Mineral Wells, Texas, Manclark picked up a seventh airframe, thus making him the world’s largest pri- vate collector of the type. Manclark’s goal? Make all seven fly- able! Eric Hup- pert took the first example aloft on 22 June and quickly built up the Chino Bad Boys: Mark Moodie, camera plane pilot; Matt Nightingale, photo mission pilot and owner of California Aerofab; Eric Huppert, test/instructor pilot.and Cactus Air Force. It is a personal favorite. Eric is a soft-spoken very tal- ented aviator who got a lot of Bronco time spraying illegal crops “south of the border.” After our photo flight, Eric commented, “The people that flew and maintained the Bronco have never got- ten the credit they deserve. Mike Manclark will go a long way in correct- ing that situation. We hope to be taking OV-10s to airshows and displays where the aircraft will show how Americans fought — and died — in remote corners of the globe while flying Broncos and defend- ing our freedoms.” We will be featuring a major article on Mike Manclark and his OV-10 Squadron in an upcoming issue. AC Airborne on 1 July from Chino, Matt Nightingale stacks the OV-10D+ above the T-6 camera plane being flown by Mark Moodie.