Connecticut Air and Space Center is in the process of converting
a portion of a closing Army facility in Stratford, CT to an
aviation museum. The history of the present Army site goes
back to 1929 when Igor I. Sikorsky built the first "Clipper"
Flying Boats there, initiated the first US flight of a helicopter
(VS-300) followed by pre-production of the first helicopters
(YR-4); continues thru WWII where Chance Vought designed and
built the famous F4U Corsair's - used extensively by the Marines
in the Pacific and goes on to the design and production of
the first small US gas turbine engines by Lycoming/AVCO/Allied
Signal (the primary engine for the MA1 Abrams battle tank
and the UH-1 helicopter). All production ended at the plant
in October 1998 when it's closure was directed under BRAC.
The Army is now in the process of disposing of the plant and
turning it over to the Town of Stratford we will be
receiving approx. 7-8 acres and 6 buildings. We are presently
using one of these buildings for storage and hope to be in
the main building by the end of August 2001. Like all dealings
with DOD, the State and Town it is slow, laborious and riddled
with unforeseen potholes. The positive side of the equation
is that the US Army, State of Connecticut, Town of Stratford
and Sikorsky Aircraft folks are solidly behind the project
and committed to make it happen.
mission of The Connecticut Air and Space Center is to exhibit,
display and archive aviation as it applies primarily to
Stratford and the State of Connecticut. The F-111 falls
into this category perfectly, with many of its components,
including engines, manufactured in CT. When the first F-111s
became available for either museum donation or scrapping
in February of this year, we traveled to AMARC in Tucson
and screened the aircraft. There were four museum's looking
for the F-111 out of the 50 or so aircraft that were declared
available. The majority of the birds fell into the worst
category of "Hangar Queens" that you ever saw.
"Balls-9" was actually the best of what was available
and we were lucky enough to have it allocated to us.
engines and avionics are gone, numerous panels were missing
and the cockpit instrumentation had been gutted. We were
lucky enough to find the majority of the missing panels
and some of the cockpit instrumentation. We were able to
tow our lady off the reservation - the other museums were
not as lucky, cranes and flatbeds were the order of the
day. I have attached some photos of "Balls-9"
just before it left AMARC.
"Balls-9" was towed off of AMARC, we still weren't
quite sure how we were going to display or restore this
lady. We put requests up on the FB-111, F-111 and RAF Upper
Heyford sites looking for ideas and availability of information
and memorabilia. The response has been overwhelming. We
have received responses from as far away as Incirlick, Aviano
and Australia and as close as New England all looking to
participate in one way or another. One of the gentlemen
we encountered says there is enough of the F-111 retirement
community available in New England that he can cobble together
a large enough crew to restore the lady to pristine. As
the old saying goes, it's time for the museum to get the
hell out of the way and let the experts go to work.
on these responses, the museum has decided to exhibit "Balls-9"
in its last active role. The display will be centered on
the beginnings and history of the F-111 and particularly
the 79thFS, the 20FW and life at Upper Heyford as it pertains
to the F-111 mission. This decision was based solely on
documented history being available for F-111E, S/N 68-009
and by no means was/is meant to downplay the contributions
of other models or variants and the numerous organizations,
bases and folks who flew and maintained the "Vark".
we put this project together and read the responses received
it became very evident that certain pieces of information
and physical items were necessary for a first-class display
following is what could be called a shopping list:
are in need of patches from the 79th, 20th, 3AF, USAFE,
NATO, and information/articles/patches from events/sorties/competitions
that the 79th and particularly "Balls-9" participated
F-111/FB-111 history/articles/stories and P&W engine
instrumentation, canopy covers and avionics.
pair of Afterburners.
complete set of Tech Orders for the F-111E; Flight Manuals;
Maintenance Check Lists; Cockpit Photos, IPBs etc.
information, i.e. did "Balls-9" participate
in the Libya Raids or Desert Shield/Storm?
the sorties cover operations or was ordnance dropped?
of flight crews and maintenance personnel - personal information
and logbooks would really enhance the display.
of the inside of Job Control, the Command Post, maintenance
folks or flight crews that maintained or crewed "Balls-9"?
experiences, individual stories and/or reflections that
would help us personalize the exhibit.
whereabouts and names of any "Balls-9" crew
chief(s) or flight crews.
folks who are in the Stratford/New England area
who would be willing to spend some volunteer time at the
museum - when the exhibit is up and running - explaining
to visitors what day-to-day life in the F-111 community
and particularly the 79th/20th and
Upper Heyford was like.
individual or individuals in the Tucson, AZ area who might
be willing to provide volunteer "expert" advice
to the contractor who will be disassembling "Balls-9"
in the September/October time frame. We have a group of
F-111 folks who have volunteered to put together info
for the contractor but as we all know, an on-site
expert would be invaluable and possibly prevent further
damage to the lady.
of course any folks who would like to volunteer time helping
to restore "Balls-9" to a museum showpiece.
information, help, and questions can be directed to Ballsfirstname.lastname@example.org.
is now parked at a company in Tucson, AZ that will disassemble
the lady, appropriately pack and crate her and then transport
her, over land, for hopefully, her final mission - as
a history of the F-111 and the 79th/20th and
UH personnel. We anticipate that all of the preliminaries
will be completed by the end of October and "Balls-9"
will arrive at Stratford in November. Upon arrival, the
restoration process will start and we hope to have the
restoration completed and the exhibit(s) finished by July
2002. Of course, this date assumes that no additional
potholes will arise - that thought might fall under wishful
the lady arrives, photos will be published on the Museum's
web site along with progress reports being provided to
the F-111 and Upper Heyford Websites.
items that are donated or loaned will be duly acknowledged
both on our Website and as part of the display.
folks that do not wish to part with any of their memorabilia,
we would appreciate being able to borrow it for reproduction
or copying and then returning the item(s).
course, any input as to ideas for the display/exhibit,
the source of memorabilia, or the names of folks who might
be of additional help would be appreciated.
us end by saying THANKS to all of the folks who answered
our request and for the information/material that has
already been provided. We hope we can continue this relationship
and we know that future inputs will be of immense help
with the exhibit of this grand lady.
any of you are ever in the Stratford, CT area, please do
not hesitate to drop in to see us.
the Connecticut Air and Space Center
Evans, CMSgt, USAF (Ret)