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Sat, Mar 05, 2005

Air Force Armament Museum Seeks Volunteers

Adopt-A-Plane Program Goal To Preserve History By Having Individual Organizations Maintain Displays

George Jones is a man with a plan: to restore the static aircraft displays at the Air Force Armament Museum. The aircraft are “dying a slow death” because of adverse weather conditions that are taking a toll on the 25 displays that surround the museum, said Mr. Jones, an aerospace museum specialist. Previously, federal prison inmates assisted the two-person restoration staff in maintaining the planes.

With the possible closing of the federal prison camp, Mr. Jones said he is looking in another direction to preserve these pieces of history. Museum officials are initiating an “adopt-a-plane” program. The goal is to have an individual organization responsible for each display aircraft.

The actual work involves preparation, priming and painting the plane, a job that takes three to five workers about three days. Aircraft also require pressure washing every six months. The cost runs from about $600 for smaller aircraft to $1,200 for one the size of a C-130 Hercules. “The goal is to restore six to eight aircraft each year,” Mr. Jones said. “There's a seven-month weather window starting in March to complete the 'care and feeding' of these displays.”

Mr. Jones speaks passionately about restoration efforts because he said he knows the important role each plane played in aviation history and the role they continue to play today. His 24-year background as an aircraft maintenance officer is only one reason for his zeal.  He said it is the only opportunity for many of the museum's 100,000-plus yearly visitors to see aircraft up close and personal. He also contends it is critical that these national treasures do not disappear from view.

“These planes are so much a part of history,” he said. “Out of thousands produced, there are fewer than 20 B-17 Flying Fortress static display aircraft let today.  If we don't take care of all of these planes, we'll only be able to see them in books in the future,” Mr. Jones said.

Several organizations have already stepped up to adopt aircraft with labor and maintenance costs. In the past year, the C-130, F-4C Phantom II and B-17 were restored. Maintenance units here have already claimed six aircraft. “We are able to give back to the community by providing manpower and experience that would otherwise be cost prohibitive,” said Col. Larry Hudson, 33rd Maintenance Group commander. “At the same time, the joint venture provides our folks an excellent training opportunity, especially for our entry-level (Airmen).”

“These aircraft are our nation's 'iron children,' and they are our national heritage,” Mr. Jones said. “Through the help of our community volunteers, this great part of our culture will be preserved for our children to experience for centuries to come.”

(Our thanks to Lois Walsh of the 96th Air Base Wing Public Affairs.)

FMI: www.destin-ation.com/airforcearmamentmuseum/

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