Work may begin soon on Heritage Airpark
By Monte Miller, 375th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 10, 2008
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- An idea 25 years in the making may soon be a reality.
Tentative plans have been made to begin work on the Scott Heritage Airpark as early as next month.
"Our plans call for three phases," retired Air Force Col. Larry Strube, Heritage Airpark Committee chairman, said. "We are trying to raise $1.5 million to cover those phases. We think that will be enough. As of now, we have $200,000 pledged or in the bank."
Mr. Strube became involved with the Heritage Airpark committee in 2002 when he was vice commander of the 375th Airlift Wing. After retiring he wanted to remain a part of the project. He explained said the first three phases will include grading a site work, building a parking area and constructing a visitors center.
"We're in the final stages or discussions," he said. "We are actually getting things done. Excavations could begin by the end of April."
The discussions referred to are with Holland Construction, which has offices in St. Louis and Swansea. Mr. Stube said the company has agreed to assist the Heritage Airpark Committee with oversight of the project and are using their contacts in the construction industry to benefit the project as well.
"We also have a lot of support from the local communities," he said. "Mascoutah, O'Fallon, Belleville, and Swansea are all behind us. We (the committee) feel more people will come on board once they actually see construction start. Hey, this is really going to happen. It isn't just a dream."
"I want to see this through," he said. "It's pretty simple. An Air Force Base ought to have something to define what the base is about. This airpark will set the tone to everyone coming to the base."
If work does begin in April, it should continue at a rapid pace to meet the tentative deadlines of the committee.
"Col. Hunt (375th Airlift Wing commander) presented us with the challenge of at least having the airplanes in place in time for the airshow in September," Mr. Strube said. "We are hoping to meet that goal."
Other monies for the project may be coming in the form of private donations and grants. Several of which have already been applied for through the Southern Illinois Tourism Bureau, and the Illinois Department of Transportation. One grant has already been received from the Metro-East Parks and Recreation District.
Mr. Strube said the committee is also in the process of kicking off a founding members project where each individual or family that donates $100 or more will be featured in a commemorative area in the new airpark.
Current plans for the airpark include the display of five aircraft including a C-140, KC-135, C-141 B model and a C-9 A model. A request has also been made to the Air Force for the use of a C130-E.
Mr. Fred Smith, 375th Airlift Wing historian, explained all of the aircraft in the airpark, remain the property of the National Museum of the Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
They will be on loan from the Air Force and the committee will be responsible for their maintenance upkeep. If at any time the Air Force feels the aircraft maintenance does not meet their standards, the aircraft can be removed from their possession.
"We will simply be the custodians of the aircraft," Mr. Smith said. "There are significant restoration needed."
The airpark committee will also be responsible for the initial restoration of the planes and their upkeep. Estimates to restore the aircraft to display quality, which includes painting, bird proofing and ultra-violet protection could range from $30,000 to $200,000 per plane.
It is still unclear whether restorations will be done before the planes are put into place in the airpark or done after they are positioned. Once the planes are restored, some of the major maintenance processes will need to be repeated every three to five to seven years in addition to routine upkeep.