Friday, January 29, 2016

Shelter to shield aircraft

Big Top Structures employees Jeremy Hacking of Mt. Laurel, N.J., and Elijah Rickhill of Mt. Holly, N.J., set up the overhang that will protect planes as they are restored on Thursday, January 28, 2016, at Aviation Heritage Park. 

Jerry Roark, chairman of the restoration committee, looks at the damage that has been done to the Lockheed T33 over the years it has been on display on Thursday, January 28, 2016, at Aviation Heritage Park.

Paint peels off of a wing of the Lockheed T33 which will be undergoing restoration in the coming months on Thursday, January 28, 2016, at Aviation Heritage Park.

Wear and tear on aircraft at Aviation Heritage Park have left some planes in need of a touch-up. A new shelter under construction could help shield planes while repairs are made.

“Not only will we repaint, but we’ll also do some minor repairs,” said Jerry Roark, a board member at the nonprofit Aviation Heritage Park. “We get a lot of people that come through here that are really enthused by the airplanes.”

Workers assembled a frame for a large vinyl tent at the park Thursday. The tent, which is referred to as a fabric tension shelter, should be completed by Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, Roark said. On Monday, a crane will lift the entire structure and place it over a Lockheed T-33 in need of a paint job and other minor repairs. Roark said estimated the entire project cost at $45,000.

“It gives us the ability to be able to keep the aircraft on display,” Roark said.

That’s important, Roark said, because the planes help the community connect to history. “All the guys that walked on the moon flew that airplane,” Roark said while pointing to a T-38 that came from NASA.

A blue F-9 Panther looks just like a plane flown by the first lead pilot of the Blue Angels.

“It ties aviation to the community,” Roark said. “It more or less sets the example for kids that they can do this, too.”

Two other planes will receive repairs after work on the T-33. Jim Allen, a spokesman for the park, said the project is about preserving important artifacts.

“Our desire is to keep these exhibits as crisp as possible,” he said. “So we’re really excited to see this. It’s a major step forward for us.”

One plane in particular holds special meaning for Arnie Franklin, a former park board member. An F-111F resembles a plane Franklin flew during the 1986 bombing of Libya.

Although Franklin didn’t fly that specific plane, it was flown during the mission, which was a response from President Ronald Reagan to the bombing of a Berlin nightclub.

Franklin said southcentral Kentucky has many aviators with their own great stories and contributions to aviation history. However, “they’re stories go largely untold because no one knows,” he said.

Roark said the park’s long-term goal is to build a separate building for a museum. The shelter would become a semi-permanent structure for restoration purposes, he said.

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