LEWISTON — The Vietnam War-era jet aircraft destined for Veterans Memorial Park in 2019 — perhaps by Memorial Day — still sits in Montana.

Jerry Dewitt, chairman of the L&A Veterans Council, said the Air Force plane — an LTV A-7D Corsair II — should arrive in Maine in the next couple of months. Restoration and the construction of a display platform should be completed by Memorial Day, Dewitt said.

The plane, whose last mission was in Panama during Operation Just Cause in 1990, has been sitting mostly forgotten at the Helena Regional Airport on the grounds of a former aviation school, exposed to the Montana elements for years.

Unable to fly, the aircraft is more than 48 feet long and has a wingspan of nearly 40 feet.

Dewitt traveled to Montana in late October and oversaw a crew that dismantled the plane, removing the wings and tail section in preparation for transport. In addition to members of the American Legion post in Helena, volunteers included two people from Vought Heritage Foundation in Texas, who work to restore airplanes.

One of the Texas volunteers was a retired Navy veteran who helped build Corsairs more than 40 years ago.

Dewitt and the council have long sought to add an Air Force component to the park to join a treasure trove of military artifacts, such as an Army jeep, a 5-inch rotating gun, an anchor, a shell from the USS Maine and dozens of memorial benches and granite markers listing thousands of local veterans.

The United States Air Force museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio gave permission in September to move the plane to Lewiston.

The jet was utilized as a bomber and a fighter in Vietnam and was later used by the Ohio Air National Guard. The word “Ohio” is still visible on the plane’s tail.

The local organization is raising funds to transport the 20,000-pound plane to Maine by truck, which Dewitt expects to happen in the next two months. He has created a gofundme page seeking donations to help with transportation costs.

Volunteers disassemble an LTV A-7D Corsair II in Helena, Montana, in October. The fighter jet is destined for Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston. (Thom Bridge/Helena Independent Record)

LTV A-7D Corsair II sits on the grass at the Helena Regional Airport in Montana. After the plane is dismantled, it will be shipped to Maine to be restored and placed at Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston. (Thom Bridge/Helena Independent Record)

 


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