VALDOSTA, Ga. --
Moody crash recovery units responded to downtown, Valdosta April 24 to 25, to recover an aircraft that has been a historic landmark in town since the early 1960s.
The F-86L Sabre, which has been on display for decades at the corner of Ashley Street and Woodrow Wilson Drive, will undergo an extensive refurbishment before being put on permanent display at George W. Bush Air Park at Moody Field.
Although originally dedicated in 1961, the aircraft was re-dedicated 20 years later in honor of U.S. Air Force Maj. Lyn McIntosh. The Valdosta native was a rescue pilot killed April 25, 1980, in Operation Iron Claw -- a rescue attempt for Americans held hostage in Tehran, Iran. The F-86 named in his memory entered Moody's gates at approximately 3 a.m., April 25 -- 32 years to the day after McIntosh's passing.
The overnight relocation began at 10 p.m., with the removal of the aircraft support structure. Once the aircraft was free, it was hoisted by crane onto a waiting flatbed trailer. Several city and base agencies assisted with the relocation, including: Moody civil engineers, security forces, crash recovery, Lowndes County and Valdosta Sheriff's Department, and Valdosta utility departments.
"On a scale of one to 10, it was a 10," said Tech. Sgt. Chad Everett, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron crash recovery assistant section chief. "We got the aircraft from downtown back to base safe and sound, and no one was hurt -- overall 100 percent success."
The 13-mile trek to the base took nearly two hours to complete, averaging 10 miles per hour with stops at each intersection to maneuver around road signs and traffic lights. The aircraft's 36-foot wingspan took up both northbound traffic lanes on Bemiss Road and portions of the shoulder and median.
"The main challenge was weaving in and out of the road signs that couldn't be removed in the median and on the right side of the road," said Tech. Sgt. John Turner, 23d Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operator. "We wanted to make sure we didn't damage any of the signs or the plane. We slowed down, put the walkers out and proceeded through the congested area, and took our time. Once we got clear, we pursued the next challenge."
One of the biggest challenges of the trip, according to Turner, was the gate entrance at Moody. The team entered the south gate, circled behind the visitor's center and navigated around two traffic circles before entering a secure flightline area.
In addition to the aircraft relocation, Moody civil engineers did some heavy lifting of their own, relocating a flagpole and concrete monuments from the site downtown.
"We removed the monument, the flag pole, and coordinated the procurement and payment for the crane from a local contractor," said Master Sgt. Stevie Wells, 23d Civil Engineer Squadron superintendent of the heavy repair element. "There were two monuments - a dedication and a re-dedication monument."
After cleaning the monument, it was delivered to the 23d EMS for storage until the project is complete.
"The 23d Wing welcomes the F-86 relocation for addition to the President George W. Bush Air Park, which pays tribute to the proud history of the Flying Tigers and Moody Air Force Base," said Col. Mark A. Ruse, 23d Mission Support Group commander. "The relocation, restoration and re-dedication will stand as a memorial to Major McIntosh. We worked closely with the McIntosh family and the City of Valdosta to maintain and further build strong ties within our communities."
Restoration of the aircraft is estimated at almost 550 total man hours and just over $6,000 in material costs. This process will include inspections, corrosion removal, metal, structural and canopy repairs and painting.
"We'll get it off the trailer, put the landing gear down and tow it to the hangar where they'll do the refurbishment," Everett added. "We'll transport it to the airpark and get it put on the pedestal there. Once we get it refurbished, back into the air park and re-dedicated it will be mission complete."
The aircraft is on loan from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. City of Valdosta and Moody officials worked closely with the museum and the McIntosh family to ensure the move was successful. The McIntosh family will be invited to the re-dedication of the restored aircraft in the air park. The date of the re-dedication ceremony is not yet determined.
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