An A-4 aircraft has stood guard at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport’s entrance for nearly six years. Prior to the aircraft’s arrival, it took almost five years for the members of the Cape Girardeau Pilots’ Club to get everything arranged in order to get the jet to its current home.
The aircraft in December 2003 was loaned from the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
“The loan agreement itself did not cost any money,” said Cape Girardeau Regional Airport Manager Bruce Loy. “However, the agreement did commit the City to preserving the aircraft for public display.”
According to Loy, the Airport has to prove to the United States Navy every other year that the plane is still on public display and that it is kept in presentable condition.
Currently the Airport and Pilots’ Club are working on a plan to give the aircraft some new paint, because the existing black, orange and white coloring has significantly faded.
Cape Girardeau Pilots’ Club President Glenn McCallister recently attended a City Council meeting to discuss repainting the plane to keep it at the Navy’s standards. The Pilots’ Club hopes that the City can provide the staff and resources needed to touch up the plane. The Club is open to providing some project funding and offering professional advice on the repainting process.
McCallister said now is a good time to start discussions and the process of planning to repaint the plane because the City and Pilots’ Club has time over the winter months for preparation before warmer spring weather and any possible future public events at the Airport.
“They [the Navy] will be telling us what colors, and we want to make sure that it’s correct,” said McCallister. “We really think that just with some careful masking and surface prep that we will be able to take care of the eroded areas and go from there.”
According to Loy, the aircraft was moved from Perryville to Cape Girardeau during winter 2007. Before traveling to Cape Girardeau, the A-4 jet had been flown into the Perryville airport for repairs and refurbishing. While in Perryville, the Navy decided to de-commission the aircraft, after which the jet remained on the Sabreliner Corporation ramp for nearly eight years.
It took a few years for the Airport and Pilots’ Club to determine how to move the jet from Perryville to Cape Girardeau. The aircraft originally was to be moved in a ‘sling’ via a Chinook helicopter, but that method was deemed too dangerous. Eventually it was decided that the aircraft be transported on a flatbed truck down Interstate 55 to the Airport. The aircraft was completely cleaned and repainted by January 2007 and was mounted for public display in the spring.
Other possible Pilots’ Club projects mentioned by McCallister include pouring a handicapped-accessible parking lot around the A-4 aircraft to enable people of all needs to more closely view the plane and read its informative plaque, providing flood lights for nighttime illumination, and possibly providing flight scholarships for anyone interested in learning to fly an aircraft. McCallister emphasized that these projects are still in the ‘early stages.’
The Pilots’ Club since 1947 has been a part of a variety of projects.
The Pilots’ Club currently has more than 20 members and are always looking for more. The Club meets on the second Saturday each month at 2 p.m., in the Pilots’ Club Clubhouse at the Airport.
McCallister said that to join to group you do not have to have your pilot’s license, just a passion and interest in planes. For people interested in joining, email McCallister at Gmac1123[at]gmail.com.