Pilots club wants Navy Skyhawk for Cape airport entrance

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

For the past five years or so, a Douglas A-4 Navy Skyhawk has sat on an airplane ramp in Perryville, in good condition but practically abandoned by the U.S. military. If it goes unclaimed, the jet will land in the scrap yard.

A local group doesn't want to see that happen.

Instead, the Cape Girardeau Pilots Club and airport manager Bruce Loy have asked the Navy to give it to them, so it can be refurbished and then displayed at the entrance of the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. Loy said he felt their chances are good.

John Farquhar, a member of the pilots club and co-owner of Midstate Aviation, said it's not unusual for airports to have airplanes at their entrance.

"But mainly, we want to put it up as a veterans memorial," he said. "I know that would be pretty appropriate."

Loy recently wrote a letter asking the Department of the Navy to take possession of the jet, which originally was designed as carrier-based nuclear bomber. A Navy inspections team went to see the jet last week and said it wouldn't be a problem to give it to Cape Girardeau.

The Navy flew the jet, along with three or four more like it, to Sabreliner in Perryville four or five years ago, according to Rich Schmidt, a supervisor with the company. Sabreliner services, modifies and manufactures a variety of military and commercial aircraft.

"They were going to sell them to foreign countries," Schmidt said. "After 9-11, that all changed."

The Navy left the planes there before selling several of them to scrap companies, which broke them down to sell. That was supposed to happen to this plane, but Schmidt -- himself a member of the pilots club -- said obviously it would be better to have it at the airport.

"The only problem is getting it from here to Cape Girardeau," Schmidt said, adding that one idea would be to have the National Guard transport it as a training exercise.

Loy agreed that transporting the plane would be the biggest expense, but it won't cost city taxpayers anything.

"We're planning on getting assistance and donations," he said. "All in all, it would be nice for the airport and a nice way to honor veterans."

Loy said he's waiting to hear from the Navy, which is checking to see if the jet is still listed in its inventory. It may actually be Sabreliner's.

The pilots' group and the airport would have the plane refurbished and possibly painted. The engine and avionics would be removed, basically gutting the plane.

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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