10 September 2022: Also see https://tailhooktopics.blogspot.com/2013/06/a3d-1q-notes.html
26 May 2013: Updated with additional information and an illustration
Every once in awhile someone asks a question that causes me to do a fact check and research that leads to a different answer than I would have given otherwise. In this case, the question was: "Can anyone tell me why these A3D-1Q's had open bomb bay doors...if they were originally (sealed) to accommodate the ECM* monitors in an unpressurized bomb bay compartment. It would seem that opening the bomb bay would be impossible if it was converted to an ECM* compartment"
Five Douglas A3D-1s bombers were converted to have an electronic reconnaissance mission capability by the Navy, reportedly at the Navy repair and overhaul facility at Norfolk, Virginia, and redesignated A3D-1Q. The A3D-1Q Characteristics Summary (CS) dated 15 July 1957 gives the Bureau Numbers (130356 and 130360-3) and states that it had a crew of seven and a "pressurized cabin". Other published sources state that the bomb bay was not pressurized (the bombs didn't need it) even though there were guys sitting back there or that there was a pressurized "capsule" installed in the bomb bay.
The bomb bay door that's open is the one on the left. The right one was modified to add a canoe-like fairing to house antenna(s); it could be opened if required. There were also mission-specific antennas located in the fairings on the side of the forward fuselage and the tip of the tail.
at least one A3D-1Q was delivered to VQ-1 still glossy Sea Blue.)
An excellent history by Capt Don East, USN of the U.S. Navy's electronic mission activity and these two squadrons is provided here:
Capt East makes it clear that these were four-place, not seven-place, airplanes: pilot, navigator, crew chief (who would also have been the tail gunner), and a radio-electronics operator. There were a couple of other indicators as well as to the number of crewmen. In both fatal crashes, one at VQ-1 and one at VQ-2, there were only four crewmen aboard; although one was a proficiency flight, the other was almost certainly operational. There are only four guys in this picture of a VQ-1 A3D-1Q crew.
Closer inspection of the forward fuselage revealed two interesting features though. First, the periscope fairing had been removed consistent with the removal of the ASB-1 bombing system since the electronic reconnaissance mission didn't require it. Second, the aft part of the canopy appeared to have be replaced with solid panels and the sides of the canopy looked nonstandard as well.
As a result, I suspected that the flight deck of the A3D-1Q was configured with a fourth work station. Eliminating the bombing system would allow the right front seat to be moved forward, creating adequate space behind it to accommodate it.
Captain East confirmed by email that the A3D-1Q had a four-man crew and they were all seated on the flight deck. The fourth crewman's work station was not in the bomb bay.
This is a comparison of a poor-quality A3D-1Q canopy photo with one of an A3D Bomber that suggests the seating arrangement on the right in the A3D-1Q was the same as existing one on the left although the fourth seat reportedly faced forward.
How to explain the 1957 CS that lists it as a seven-place airplane with a pressurized cabin? This is almost certainly an error, possibly caused by confusion with the forthcoming A3D-2Q (the mockup had been reviewed in September 1954) that was a seven-place airplane with four crewmen added in a rearrangement of the fuselage interior that created a pressurized cabin immediately behind the flight deck. (See http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2010/09/mighty-skywarrior.html) The same applies to the published and online instances of the A3D-1Q described as having seven crewmen.
I'd appreciate it if someone would look inside the cockpit and bomb bay of the last remaining EA-3A (the redesgnation of the A3D-1Q) that is on display at the Pima Air & Space Museum http://www.pimaair.org/collection-detail.php?cid=94 and report back.
There might be enough hardware left in it to ascertain the configuration of the fourth crew station. It was however, used by Westinghouse to test side-looking radar, among other things, so the flight deck might have been rearranged at some point and no longer represents that of the A3D-1Q.
I'm also hopeful that a connection gets made with an A3D-1Q crewman who has a reliable memory...