Those that know me well know that I have little use for Fox News, but in this instance they are serving a beneficial purpose, spreading the news about the impending demise of an historic aircraft. On 10 August, they published “Ex-Air Force pilot in dogfight to save historic Boeing from scrapyard” about a retired USAF Lt. Col. trying to find a way to save the EC-135N that is currently at the Robins Museum of Aviation.
“One of two CENTCOM planes made to fly high-ranking U.S. military command and staff during the Gulf War, the 1990s Bosnian War and Iraqi Freedom is about to be turned into scrap metal despite its colorful history and a roster of passengers. A retired Air Force pilot who once flew the Boeing 707 is now fighting to save it, but the cost – an estimated $200,000 – could be too much.”
The aircraft in question is 61-0327, an EC-135N that saw service at McGuire AFB as a cargo aircraft, at Patrick AFB as a Test Range aircraft, as a test aircraft at Wright Patterson AFB, as an airborne command post at Robins AFB, and finally as a command aircraft at MacDill AFB. During its service at MacDill AFB, it was the command aircraft for the CENTCOM commander, including for Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during Desert Storm. In 2003, it was turned over to the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, where it was on display until late 2013/early 2014 when parts of its wings were removed and it was moved behind the museum. When I first saw it there in January 2014, it was in such a sorry state that I couldn’t bring myself to take a photo of it. Currently, it’s awaiting disposal because it has been deemed one of the aircraft the museum can’t afford the upkeep for. Due to a declining budget, the museum (like many others) is having to reduce its inventory in an interest of quality over quantity.
As a student of history and somewhat of an aviation geek, I have to disagree with the notion that this aircraft is not worth saving. Given it’s history, particularly relative to historic U.S. military and foreign policy events in the 1990s and early 2000s, this is an important aircraft – a witness to Desert Storm, policy failures in the former Yugoslavia, and the beginning of our current myriad of problems in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
“Bowling Green residents expressed their desire to help raise funds for Aviation Heritage Park, but according to Roark, with costs being so high, it will likely never come to fruition.
“We quickly realized that it’s pretty tight and we wouldn’t be able to raise the money,” Roark said. “I’m just hoping that someone will save it from the shredder.”
The article gives $200,000 as the cost needed to save the aircraft, which is a hard sell during times like these. Hopefully attention from a major news network like Fox News may bring it to the attention of a benefactor that could help with the cost. It would be a shame for an aircraft that saw such history to be resigned to the scrap heap.