F-14 Tomcat scheduled to arrive in Willmar on April 2, 2007
WILLMAR -- The F-14 Tomcat naval jet fighter is no longer a possibility; it's a reality. The demilitarization process -- removing the engines and sensitive cockpit equipment -- will begin March 19. The jet will be transported from a military faci...
WILLMAR -- The F-14 Tomcat naval jet fighter is no longer a possibility; it's a reality.
The demilitarization process -- removing the engines and sensitive cockpit equipment -- will begin March 19.
The jet will be transported from a military facility at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport to Willmar on April 2.
The dates were confirmed by Jody Goucher, program supervisor for Titan Corporation of Virginia Beach, Va. Goucher said Titan is the only company contracted by the federal government to prepare retired military aircraft for display at museums and airports.
Goucher said the spring demiling dates will provide better scheduling for Titan. He said retired military planes "are actually on loan'' from the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla. He said the city will be responsible for maintaining the airplane.
"We're no longer talking about the possibility of this happening. It is going to happen now,'' said Willmar City Administrator Michael Schmit.
Schmit signed an agreement with Titan last week to begin the process of demilitarizing the aircraft and transporting it.
Schmit signed paperwork in October taking possession of the F-14. The plane has been parked for the past five years at the Twin Cities airport.
The city was first told it had until Dec. 5 to move the plane off the airport or the plane would be scrapped; then the city was told the deadline was extended to Dec. 22. Now, the city has been given more time.
Local supporters want the jet to be displayed at the new Willmar airport. Until the demiling takes place, the plane will be moved to another area at the airport to make way for a parking lot. The Tomcat has been the object of an intense fundraising campaign to help pay the demiling cost.
The initial estimate from Titan was $52,601; the final estimate as of Dec. 13 is $51,746. The fundraising effort, headed by retired Airport Commission member Pat Curry, garnered $31,715. The City Council is providing a match of up to $25,000. Tonight, the council will consider a Finance Committee recommendation to fund the match from excess building permit fees.
Curry was pleased to hear the dates are set.
"Without a doubt. For a while, you don't know if the money was going to come around,'' he said. "I'm totally thrilled that this thing is going to happen.''