Selfridge Museum Begins Work on F-89 Restoration
By By TSgt. Dan Heaton, 127th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 17, 2012
SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- The Selfridge Military Air Museum has begun work on a restoration project that may be the only one of its kind in the country, or possibly the world.
Volunteers at the Museum at Selfridge Air National Guard Base took delivery this week of an F-89 Scorpion fighter-interceptor aircraft. They will spend the next several months restoring the aircraft as it appeared during use by the Michigan Air National Guard in the 1950s and '60s. It will be the only known restored F-89 in the "C" model configuration.
"This is a rare bird indeed," said Gerry Ridener, a retired Air Force master sergeant who is on a team of eight volunteers at the museum who will be working on the restoration. Ridener spent time on active duty and then with two Air Force Reserve units that were based at Selfridge, the 305th Air Rescue Squadron and the 927th Airlift (later Air Refueling) Wing.
The first project is to assemble the aircraft. It was shipped to Selfridge in five major pieces - and many small ones - on three trucks. The aircraft had been in storage at the Western Museum of Flight in Torrance, Calif., for several years. It is expected to take about a month for the volunteers to piece the aircraft together - the wings, fuselage, nose cone and tail need to be attached - and that work will be done in a hangar on the base. Once assembled, the Scorpion will be towed to its parking spot along with about 30 other heritage aircraft at the museum's outdoor airpark, where the painting and other restoration work will take place, which will allow the museum's visitors to see the work in progress.
Volunteers are targeting "late summer" for completion of the project, said Roger Krings, a museum volunteer who is heading the F-89 committee.
While more than 1,000 of the twin-engine F-89s were built, only 164 were outfitted with the more powerful engines - 7,400 pounds of thrust each - that marked the "C" model upgrade. Introduced in 1950, the F-89 was the among the first fighters equipped with air-to-air guided missiles. While it was in the Air Force inventory for almost 20 years, the aircraft was often plagued by structural problems related to its straight wings.
The aircraft is an important addition to the collection at the Selfridge Museum, said Lou Nigro, a retired lieutenant colonel who serves as the executive director of the all-volunteer organization.
"The F-89 was not only flown by the active-duty Air Force at Selfridge, but it was also flown at one time by all three of the flying units now in the Michigan Air National Guard, including the 110th at Battle Creek," Nigro said. "The "C" model is the variant that we flew here in the Guard and we still have a couple of people in historical association membership that either flew or worked on this aircraft."
The F-89 was used by the Michigan Air National Guard in support of the former Air Defense Command into the late 1960s. The aircraft was completely retired from the U.S. inventory in 1969. Krings and Nigro said they were unaware of any operational F-89 still in existence. Like all of the restored aircraft at the Selfridge Museum, the new Michigan Scorpion will not be operational.
The acquisition of the F-89 represents one of the largest investments ever undertaken by the Museum and its all-volunteer association. Nigro estimated that the purchase, delivery and restoration of the aircraft will cost in the neighborhood of $50,000 once completed. Most of the aircraft on display at the Selfridge Museum are on long-term loan from the Air Force, Navy or other museums.
"We don't get one penny from taxpayer money," Nigro said. "All of our funds come strictly from donations and from admissions to the museum."
The Selfridge Museum recently began its regular summer operations and is now open noon-4:30 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and patriotic holidays through Oct. 30. It is also opened by appointment for tour groups.
The museum has added several key displays in the last several years, notably including cockpits of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, an A-7 Corsair and a World War II-LINK trainer, all of which visitors are welcome to sit in. Other highlights include a full-size World War I-era SPAD aircraft replica; and C-130 Hercules and P-3 Orion aircraft, both of which are open to visitors based on weather and the availability of docents.
Admission is $4.00 per guest over the age of 12 and $3.00 for children between 4 and 12 years of age with a minimum admission of $25.00 for all by-appointment tours.
Further information on the Selfridge Military Air Museum and Air Park can be found on their website (www.selfridgeairmuseum.org), by mail (Selfridge Military Air Museum, 27333 C St, Bldg 1011, Selfridge ANGB MI 48045), by phone (586-239-5035), or by e-mail (email@example.com).