By Perry Chiaramonte, ,
Published January 12, 2017
A Pentagon plane whose cabin was used by top military brass to plot strategy during three wars is in danger of having a lot more than just its wings clipped.
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.
“I’d like to see it saved because it has so much history,” retired Air Force Lt. Col. Gerald Roark to FoxNews.com. Roark currently works with Aviation Heritage Park, an aviation museum in Bowling Green, Ky.
Aviation Heritage Park hopes to land the historic plane, which flew such military luminaries as generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Tommy Franks. The plane is currently at Robins Air Base, in Warner Robins, Ga., which can’t afford to keep the plane on display.
“Maybe Robins would have a change of heart,” Roark said, “but I don’t see that happening.”
The nonprofit Kentucky museum, which has saved other military aircraft from ending up in a scrap heap, can't afford to move the plane, which no longer can fly, some 400 miles north. The plane, which is 144 feet long and has a wingspan of 130 feet, must be dissembled into different sections and then loaded on a number of massive wide-load tractor trailers for a slow transport on highways and byways to its new home where it would then be reassembled and repainted.
“We talked about it and it’s more [money] than we can shed,” Roark said. "We really don’t have a cost effective way of transporting the plane.”
Schwarzkopf and Franks are the most notable USCENTCOM commanders to use the 707, which was primarily used for communication from a war zone. During the Gulf War, from 1990 to 1991, Schwarzkopf commanded the coalition forces that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi forces. Franks led the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as well as the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
The aircraft was delivered to the U.S. Air Force in November 1961 as a C-135A "Stratolifter." In 1966, it was one of eight such planes converted into an EC-135N Apollo/Range Instrumentation Aircraft (A/RIA) for use two years later providing telemetry and communications support to the Apollo space missions.
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.”