The Port of South Louisiana will restore a historic U.S. Navy Blue Angel plane displayed at the entrance to the Port of South Louisiana’s Executive Regional Airport in Reserve, Louisiana.
The port partnered with the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida to acquire the sponsorship rights to the aircraft which is an original Grumman F- 11 Tiger jet fighter that flew with the U.S. Navy flight demonstration team in 1967.
The plane will be restored to its original Blue Angels configuration, as it appeared when performed in air shows throughout the United States and other parts of the world, including Europe.
“We are very proud of this honor and look forward to completing the restoration of this historic aircraft. Sitting on its pedestal at the entrance to our airport, this authentic Blue Angel has become a landmark within the River Parishes community,” said Port Executive Director Paul Aucoin.
The Port will fund the entire restoration project at a cost of $27,700. On October 10, 1967, the aircraft was the victim of a malfunction during a flight demonstration at Naval Air Station New Orleans (Belle Chasse), today known as Joint Reserve Base, New Orleans.
The aircraft lost power during takeoff and came to rest beyond the end of the runway. The pilot suffered minor injuries, but was able get out of the jet safely. The show was completed with the use of a backup aircraft.
Although the jet received significant repairable damages, the Navy wrote it off as a complete loss. Rather than dispose of it or return it by truck to the Blue Angels home base at NAS Pensacola, FL, it was offered to NAS New Orleans to serve as an entrance display, where it remained for approximately 35 years, until replaced by another more contemporary aircraft.
After its removal, the aircraft was acquired by a group of aviation enthusiasts from St. John the Baptist Parish in the early 1990s. These individuals had expressed interest in constructing a military museum at the airport. Unfortunately, after years of attempts and the loss of key members, the museum did not materialize. The aircraft is permanently mounted on an elevated podium at the entrance to the airport.
All former Navy aircraft remain the property of the National Naval Aviation Museum. The Port of South Louisiana submitted a request to the museum to become the aircraft sponsor, and has accepted the museum’s responsibility to become the caretaker of this historic aircraft. The Port of South Louisiana, working in partnership with the National Naval Aviation Museum, will restore and permanently display this historic aircraft in its current location near the airport’s entrance.