Meridian Star

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August 4, 2013

Jet display getting makeover

MERIDIAN —     Local residents who frequent Highway 39 North in Meridian may have noticed some work going on with a United States Navy jet on static display in front of John O'Neil Johnson Toyota.

    The jet, a retired B-2 Buckeye that during its service at NAS Meridian in the 1960s helped train countless numbers of Navy and Marine Corps aviators, is getting an extreme makeover thanks in large part to its tenant sponsor, EMEPA (East Mississippi Electric Power Association), The Area Navy League of Meridian, the City of Meridian and other donors. Lamar McDonald, who is a leader locally and statewide in supporting the state's military bases, said the makeover it to bring back the jet's original paint scheme.

    "It just got to looking really bad," McDonald said. "It was time we got some folks together to put it back into good shape so it would reflect its proud heritage and that of NAS Meridian in training our nation's aviators."

    The jet is actually owned by the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla., the home of the Blue Angels flight demonstration team. The jet is on loan to Meridian and EMEPA is the leading sponsor of the display.

    "This project has been in the works for quite some time and we are just now able to get the work underway," McDonald said.

    McDonald said the cost of the refurbishing will run between $8,000 and $10,000. McDonald said an employee from the Navy base who paints the facility's jets, is doing the primary paint work on the Buckeye. McDonald was not sure just how long it will take to finish the job but once done he said it will be in pristine condition.

    "It's been quite a job just to get all the wasp nests and the rust off the jet so the painting can begin," McDonald said.

    In August 1971, Training Air Wing One was commissioned and Training Squadron Nineteen (VT-19) was also established. That October saw the arrival of the TA-4J, the new advanced jet trainer based on the A-4 "Skyhawk." The arrival of the Skyhawk effectively ended the service of the Buckeye as the Navy and Marine Corps went to a trainer with more performance capabilities. Now the primary trainer for the base is the T-45 Goshawk, a Rolls-Royce powered jet that improves the transition training for aviators as they get their Golden Wings at NAS Meridian and are put in the cockpit of the F/A 18 Super Hornet.

    McDonald guessed the Buckeye display has been up for about 20 years and that in that time there hadn't been any sort of refurbishing done to it on this scale.

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