LEWISTON — This time the plane is coming to Lewiston, for sure.

Parts of it, anyway.

For two long years, the L&A Veterans Council has been working to get a Vietnam-era Corsair A-7D fighter jet shipped to Lewiston from Helena, Montana. There have been setbacks and delays and even some controversy.

But now, with American Legions all over the place helping to make it happen, officials with the L&A Veterans Council say the Corsair will be delivered Monday afternoon to Veterans Memorial Park.

The L&A Veterans Council has announced a Vietnam-era A7 Corsair on loan from the Air Force is on its way to Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston. The plane is expected to arrive Monday at noon. The public is invited to take pictures. American Legion Post 22 Commander Jerry Dewitt is calling for volunteers to help reassemble the aircraft. Eric Dashiell photo

There’s just one hitch.

“We thought they could get it on one load, but they can’t,” said council Treasurer Normand C. Cote. “The fuselage will get here, but the wings will have to come at a later date. It kind of put a crimp in our schedule, but what can you do?”

It should be no real surprise that hauling an airplane from Montana to Lewiston might result in some snags. The plane is nearly 50 feet long and has a wingspan of nearly 40 feet. In full form, it weighs roughly 20,000 pounds.

In September, L&A Veterans Council Chairman Jerry Dewitt received confirmation from the U.S. Air Force that the Corsair could be shipped to Maine. His group has been working with the Air Force, Maine’s congressional delegation, the Maine Army National Guard and the American Legion in Maine and Montana to bring the plane to Lewiston on a flatbed truck.

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.

In time, the plane will be fully reassembled and put on display in the Lewiston park, overlooking Great Falls.

This Corsair A-7D parked in Helena, Montana, will be trucked to Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston, according to Jerry Dewitt, chairman of the L&A Veterans Council. Submitted photo

“The L&A Veterans Council wanted to add an aircraft to the park to represent the Air Force,” Dewitt said in an earlier interview. “It would be the icing on the cake.”

The fighter jet, which last flew in Panama in 1991 following Operation Just Cause, is sitting mostly forgotten at an airfield in Helena. There, the aircraft has sat for years at the Montana Vocational Technology aviation school. But since the school closed, it has sat alone, exposed to the Montana elements.

On Monday, after the long trip east, the convoy carrying the parts will be escorted by biker group the Veteran Riders from Portland to Lewiston. It is expected to arrive at about noon.

Once all of its pieces arrive at the Lewiston park, there is one more significant task that will need to be considered: Someone will have to put the plane back together.

On that front, Dewitt and Cote are looking for a few good volunteers. Anyone interested in helping is asked to call Dewitt at 207-576-0376

“We will need to build a platform for it,” Dewitt said, “to look like it’s flying.”

The Corsair A-7D will eventually be placed on a mound near the Gold Star Mothers memorial.

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

Jerry DeWitt, chairman of the L&A Veterans Council, has secured a military aircraft to be displayed on a pedestal in Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston in the vicinity of the star, center. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo


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