Tupelo might get its own fighter jet

TUPELO – A 25-ton supersonic fighter jet could sit permanently in Veterans Park if a massive volunteer effort succeeds.
Several Tupelo residents want to acquire and mount an F-105 Thunderchief as a tribute to all area veterans. The jet, commonly deployed in the Vietnam War, would sit atop a concrete pedestal inside the east Tupelo park.
City Council members are expected to sign a resolution next month authorizing the group to pursue its plans with the municipality’s support.
The city would pay nothing on the front end, but might need to insure and maintain the aircraft, said Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis, who is the group’s city liaison.
Council members voiced initial support for the project during two work sessions this month but wanted more information first. They especially worried about liability and their legal obligations for the jet.
City attorney John Hill said he would help them sort through the questions, and meetings will be scheduled soon between group members and city officials.
It would cost roughly $60,000 to obtain, transport, paint and mount the fighter-bomber, said Mike Armour, director of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Mississippi bureau and one of the lead organizers.
Armour said it’s difficult to locate available F-105s but that the group has found one at the Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Members are negotiating with military officials to secure its loan and sign the necessary paperwork.
“It’s quite an involved process,” said Phil Sullivan, WTVA station manager and one of the organizers.
Sullivan said the group is working through the United States Air Force Static Display program.
“It’s not that we’re buying the jet, it’d be on loan from the Air Force Museum,” he said. “They own that airplane in perpetuity, but you … display and maintain it.”
In addition to paperwork and negotiations, the group also needs to raise money. Armour said members will solicit private and corporate donations.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Join the effort
Call MikeArmour at(662) 844-1184 to donate funds toward the purchase of an F-105 fighter jet to display at Tupelo’s Veterans Park.