Sunday, October 30, 2016

Jet restoration contract approved: Businesses, individuals help Edwardsville Township with $20,000 in donations

After years of stops and starts, the iconic Corsair plane that sits near the entrance to Edwardsville Township Park will finally be restored soon.

Trustees approved a $30,000 contract with Flight Deck Veterans Group, a nation-wide non-profit based in Tennessee that specializes in restoring aircraft as part of its mission of “veterans serving veterans” and passing on the “history and legacy of veterans and flight deck operations,” according to a release from the township.

“It will take five days for them to get the project completed,” Township Supervisor Frank Miles said Wednesday. “We expect them to start within the next 30 days.”

First on the agenda is for the Township to figure out which period of service the plane will be restored to and then to work with the group on exactly how to make that happen.

The plane has a storied past.

Miles said they have learned from the group that the plane – officially a U.S. Navy A-7E Corsair – took her maiden cruise in 1975 off the deck of the USS Nimitz, where it was stationed until 1980. Two years later, the plane served on the USS JFK, and from 1984 to 1996 she served on the USS Saratoga. All those deployments were Mediterranean cruises, Miles said.

“This agreement is the culmination of a multi-year project to restore our historic aircraft,” Miles said in the press release.

“In late 2013, we were approached by a small group of Township residents who were interested in restoring the aircraft. We established a Community Fund with the Edwardsville Community Foundation so residents could make tax deductible contributions.”

In the spring of 2016, the township launched “Mission: Preservation, the Campaign to Restore the Plane.” It was a three-pronged approach to raising the necessary funds to restore the aircraft to “display and ready condition.” That definition comes from the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum, which loaned the plane to the Township.

“The campaign has really rallied the community around the project and brought new volunteers and veterans to the project as well,” Miles said.

The plane was helicoptered into Township Park about a quarter century ago from Scott Air Force Base. The engine had been removed at Scott, and after it arrived in Edwardsville the late Township Supervisor Robert Stille installed a female mannequin in the cockpit, propping her up with a stack of phone books.

The most recent effort to attempt a fix-up came after some aviation experts – actually Edwardsville residents who worked for Scott Air Force Base’s TRANSCOM unit – looked the plane over, offered suggestions, and drew up specs to have the plane painted and refurbished.

But they got transferred from the area.

Then earlier this year the township began contacting local businesses in an effort to get corporate sponsors. They set up several “dine-out nights” with local restaurants,  and they partnered with Global Brew to host a Fall Fest in Township Park to benefit the project.

In all, businesses and individuals have contributed nearly $20,000 to the project.

Edwardsville Township will kick in the remaining $10,000, Miles said.

“The Flight Deck Veterans Group is excited to help the community bring this historic aircraft to life,” said Jared Ashley, CEO and Founder of the Flight Deck Veterans Group. “We are honored to be part of this project.”

The group has restored historic aircraft around the country. Their projects have included an F-14 Tomcat on display on the historic USS Yorktown in Charleston, S.C., and the Fast Eagle 102, the first F-14 Tomcat to shoot down another aircraft in combat. The latter is on display at the Commemorative Air Force’s High Sky Wing in Midland, Texas.


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