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F-111E 68-0089

Last Updated 15 July, 2003

F-111E 68-009   Balls-9
Connecticut Air and Space Center
Balls-9@ctairandspace.org

 The 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.

The 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-111’s 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.

The 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.

When "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.

Based 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".

As 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 and exhibit.

The following is what could be called a shopping list:

We 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 in.

Early F-111/FB-111 history/articles/stories and P&W engine history/articles/stories

Cockpit instrumentation, canopy covers and avionics.

A pair of Afterburners.

A complete set of Tech Orders for the F-111E; Flight Manuals; Maintenance Check Lists; Cockpit Photos, IPB’s etc.

Sortie information, i.e. did "Balls-9" participate in the Libya Raids or Desert Shield/Storm?

Were the sorties cover operations or was ordnance dropped?

Uniforms of flight crews and maintenance personnel - personal information and logbooks would really enhance the display.

Photos of the inside of Job Control, the Command Post, maintenance folks or flight crews that maintained or crewed "Balls-9"?

Daily experiences, individual stories and/or reflections that would help us personalize the exhibit.

The whereabouts and names of any "Balls-9" crew chief(s) or flight crews.

Docents – 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.

An 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.

And of course any folks who would like to volunteer time helping to restore "Balls-9" to a museum showpiece.

Responses, information, help, and questions can be directed to Balls-9@ctairandspace.org.

"Balls-9" 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 thinking.

When 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.

All items that are donated or loaned will be duly acknowledged both on our Website and as part of the display.

For 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).

Of 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.

Let 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.

If any of you are ever in the Stratford, CT area, please do not hesitate to drop in to see us.

Again, Thanks

For the Connecticut Air and Space Center

Dick Evans, CMSgt, USAF (Ret)

  Page base location - http://www.f-111.net/museums/balls-9.htm


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