For the past two years or so, WarbirdsNews has been following the 138th Aviation Company Memorial in their efforts to locate, restore and place a representative aircraft from their unit as a remembrance for their service and the sacrifice of fallen comrades. As many of our readers will know, the 138th Aviation Company Memorial successfully obtained the donation of a derelict Beech RU-21A Ute from Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Virginia, along with all the necessary spare parts to finish the project. The aircraft will eventually go on display in a memorial park beside Orlando International Airport. With our last update in December, 2015, the RU-21 had successfully made the arduous journey by road down to Florida aboard a flat bed truck, and taken part in Orlando’s Veterans Day Parade. However, during unloading at the storage/restoration site within Orlando Executive Airport, the Ute unfortunately suffered significant damage to the rear fuselage. Undaunted, Dynamic Aviation supplied them with a spare rear fuselage from an RU-21C, whereupon some volunteers from Delta Airlines de-riveted the damaged section and installed its replacement over a single weekend work party. Despite their long years of service, the two parts fit together perfectly, which is a remarkable testament to the quality of the original assembly line workers as it was to the restoration team.
The project will be having another weekend work party this coming weekend (July 30th/31st) and expects to make significant progress with the RU-21 restoration. They are always keen to see more volunteers, so if anyone feels like helping this weekend, they should head over to Orlando Executive Airport and stop by the Atlantic Aviation FBO. Someone there will run you out to where the aircraft is tied down.
In additional news, the organization has just received word from the POW/MIA Office that one of the 138th Aviation Company’s missing pilots from the Viet Nam War may have just been found. We will keep you posted on further details as they arise.
Andrew Rodriguez, the 138th Aviation Company Memorial’s president takes over from here to discuss restoration progress since our last report in 2015.
For the first time since 1993, and only 6 months after the aircraft and it’s associated parts arrived in Orlando as part of the city’s Veterans Day Parade, the veterans of the 138th Aviation Company along with Volunteers from Delta Airlines reassembled the RU-21A that will be used as a centerpiece for the unit’s memorial at Orlando International Airport.
The last major milestone of the process was to mount the wings and black wingtip antenna pods back on to the aircraft’s fuselage of the aircraft. Work went quickly, and now the aircraft is essentially whole again. Although certainly not airworthy, it looks pretty good considering the toll the years have taken. Now that the aircraft is structurally complete, the next major milestone is to prepare it for repainting, with special care paid to its historic nose and fuselage art.
One of the pilots who ferried the aircraft from Orlando to Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm in 1990 painted the nose art, with the word “Patriot” emblazoned upon a shooting star. The Goat, painted on the cargo door, has a more mysterious background, having been stenciled by unknown individuals when the aircraft took part in Operation Royal Duke, the US Government’s earliest efforts to monitor communist rebel forces in El Salvador during the early 1980’s.
Along with the work ahead, reaching out to more donors will continue in earnest this summer with the rollout of a Corporate Donor Recognition Program, as well as raising awareness of the popular Memorial Brick Campaign. Towards that effort, the Veterans of the 138th have been successful in spreading the word with local press coverage in many outlets including HERE, HERE, and HERE.
WarbirdsNews wishes the 138th Aviation Company Memorial all the best in completing their goal, and we will be sure to bring more news of their project when it arrives. Please do consider volunteering or donating to their efforts! Details of how you can contribute can be found at the links below… and don’t forget they have a work party this coming weekend!