By Brian Livingston / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
For decades the jet on static display weathered all sorts of storms and extreme summer heat. It even became a haven for swarms of wasps as it sat perched upon its pedestal.
Thursday morning, the jet, a T-2 Buckeye christened "The Spirit of Meridian" will be rededicated in its former glory of flying colors it displayed while streaking across the skies of eastern Mississippi and NAS Meridian.
According to Casey Null, cultural affairs coordinator for the City of Meridian, the ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. at the static display situated between John O'Neil Johnson Toyota and East Mississippi Electric Power Association on Highway 39 North. Everyone is invited to attend the ceremony.
The North American T-2 Buckeye was the United States Navy's intermediate training aircraft, intended to introduce U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps Student Naval Aviators and Student Naval Flight Officers to jets. It entered initial service in 1959, and was replaced by the T-45 Goshawk in 2008.
The jet received the extreme makeover thanks in large part to its tenant sponsor, EMEPA, 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 was intended 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.
McDonald said the cost of the refurbishing would run between $8,000 and $10,000. McDonald said an employee from the Navy base who paints the facility's jets did the primary paint work on the Buckeye.