Thursday, March 4, 2010

Unit members refurbish historic static aircraft

By Staff Sgt. Julie Parker
111th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

As a result of dedication and countless volunteer hours from members of the 111th Maintenance Group, the unit's A-10 Thunderbolt and the A-37 Dragonfly static aircrafts, located on either side of Building 300, have been restored to their original appearance.

"The two aircraft were in pretty shabby shape," explained Capt. Aaron Shick, 111th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) officer. "The decision to have them restored was made in December 2008."

After the decision was made to refurbish the planes, the wing hired a civilian company to do the work, but when the project seemed to be taking longer than expected unit members decided it was time to take matters into their own hands. A task like this may seem daunting to many, but once the wing members took over, the restoration was completed in five months.

"It took over 240 hours to complete," Tech. Sgt. Mark Brown, 111th MXS said. "Tech. Sgts. Mark Fossesca and Glenn Valentine removed debris from the jets and restored the structures before I began the painting process. Once that was complete, Master Sgt. David Barnes applied the decals and graphics."

They worked late nights and weekends and the restoration process was completed in December 2009.

"These guys did a remarkable job. It is awesome to see the finished product after all of the hard work they put in," said Lt. Col. Jim Larsen, 111th MXS commander. Lt. Col. Mike Regan, the 111th AMXS commander agreed, "We appreciate the hard work
and dedication from the team that made the refurbishing possible."

Much like the base they have been retired to, the aircrafts themselves each have a their own rich heritage.

The wing received the A-37 Dragonfly dubbed "Lil' Missy" in 1983, as a replacement to the O-2A Skymaster.

Retired Lt. Col. Paul Lassonde and Senior Master Sgt. Frank Rabena were the original pilot and crew chief for the jet. Sergeant Rabena is still a member of the unit as the Accessories Element Supervisor for the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "I always
wanted to place a name on the aircraft that I crewed, and because the A-37 was the first jet I decided this would be the time."

He explained that he chose the designation Lil' Missy after his niece and goddaughter Melissa who was just two years old at the time.

The aircraft itself was part of the unit's demonstration team, which would travel and perform in various airshows across the country. After a fatal run in with a very large Canadian goose during a night flying mission in October 1988, it was clear that the jet would no longer be operative. "It was damaged beyond our capabilities," said Sergeant Rabena. Since then, the Dragonfly has remained a permanent resident to the unit.

The wing received Lil' Missy's companion, the sturdy A-10 Thunderbolt II in 1988. The original pilot and crew chief were Lt. Col. Terry Hobbs and Master Sgt. Steve Deni, both who are retired. "We were transferring the aircraft to Davis Monthan AFB, Ariz., but it came back with a fuel bladder leak," said Mr. Deni. "That's a major issue for a jet so around 1992 it made into a static."

Although they no longer fly missions for the 111th FW, the statics remain a window into the past and a fixture of the wing's heritage.

"To us they represent years of flying, stories of deployments, real world contingencies, and the impact that the wing has made in past and current operations state side and overseas," said Captain Shick.

Retired Master Sgt. Steve Deni and Retired Lt. Col. Terry Hobbs are photographed in front of the A-10 Thunderbolt II static display that was recently refurbished. The two men were the original crew chief and pilot for the aircraft. (Photo by Tech Sgt. Marie Harmon)

Note: I extracted this news article from the Sandy Hog Gazette, March 2010 public online PDF issue (SHG insert). The Sandy Hog Gazette is the official newspaper of the 111th Fighter Wing (Pennsylania Air National Guard), Willow Grove ARS. Source

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