Efforts to save an
AIRBORNE COMMAND POST AIRCRAFT FROM THE COLD WAR!
by Fred Kemp
Some of you will remember the close out of the Air Force/SAC Airborne Command Post operation and the transfer to the Navy which included their use of the Looking Glass code name. At the final ceremony at what was then the SAC Museum, 63-8049 was behind the hangar doors for the final goodbye. At that time, the SAC Museum made the statement that “this aircraft will be restored and placed in this museum.” The date was September, 1998.
Over the years, many contacts were made with the former SAC Museum, now known as the Strategic Air and Space Museum (SASM), asking when this restoration would occur. Other than the many times they did not dignify an answer, the excuses were no money, and waiting for a place to put it. Our concern was the deterioration which was progressing rapidly.
In 2006, after the Tucson, AZ reunion, I was asked to try to find a source of funding to possibly restore 63-8049 after seeing the results of the Aircraft Regeneration and Maintenance Group (AMARG), better known as the aircraft boneyard, parking of almost all of our former aircraft.
Our first contact was with the aircraft manufacturer, Boeing of Seattle, WA. Basically they said that they were not interested in helping to restore any of the ABNCP aircraft and that they had already contributed money to SASM and would not contribute any more. Our contention that it was not for SASM but for 049 did not suffice.
2009-2010 had a number of contacts with individuals and companies. All were negative. It was at this time that many of you joined in the effort.
2011 Correspondence with Boeing Aircraft continued. In fact, we ended up corresponding with 5 different offices with some interest but nothing that ever panned out. I also contacted Evonne Williams at SASM and did get a response. She said that 049 had more discussions about it than did any other aircraft at that museum but funding was still an issue. She also said that she could do nothing for us since her title was “Interim Director.” She did refer me to Tom York who was their head of Restoration. I also wrote a letter to the Omaha World-Herald newspaper detailing our problems getting an ABNCP aircraft restored. They published it July 18, 2011. Shortly after this, SASM got a new Director, a Dave Scott. We also had contacted General John T. Chain, Jr. who you will remember as a former CINCSAC and the last AEAO to fly on Looking Glass July 24, 1990 aboard 63-8049. He contacted Dave Scott and was told, as we were, they did not have funding to restore 049 at this time.
Then in 2012, saw quite an increase in interest. First of all, we explored the possibility of separating the communications compartment from a salvaged EC135C, closing both ends in glass or plexiglas, using an interactive control and placing it at Pima Air and Space Museum (PASM). Although it would have preserved part of our history, the people at AMARC said it probably would collapse. End of that idea. An idea from AMARG was to miniaturize everything which would have actually got it down to about 4′ long. We had two companies interested, willing to work with us on cost and then, no place wanted to place it. Another idea ended. At about this same time, I was contacted by Robie Lange from National Park Service, Historic Monument Section on placing an Airborne Command Post aircraft in their program. After months of research for an aircraft (all have been destroyed at AMARG) and one not in a museum and close to its original location, we were advised that the Air Force does not place aircraft in Historic Monument. At our Wash D.C. reunion, I talked to the Smithsonian about getting one of our aircraft into Hazy-Udar. They declined due to lack of space
Then in 2013, things are looking much better. We were contacted by Ronnie Mitchell, Nebraska Dept of Aeronautics and a friend of the new SASM Director, Dr. Scott Tarry. We contacted Dr. Tarry and he did say that he was “personally Interested” in getting 049 restored and would be looking into it and call me. He did call in and we discussed many things. What he proposed to do at this time was renovate the original equipment, clean up the inside. Renovate the aircraft and place it outside as a walk-through exhibit. He also said he would call me within a month. He did not call and we made several attempts to contact. One of the letters went to General Chain and he wrote a letter to Dr. Tarry. In the meantime we were contacted by Dr. Tarry and this e-mail reiterated the former letters, i.e., no money, no space, etc. General Chain did remind Dr. Tarry of his prior history in SAC and 049, volunteering to fly, from Florida to Nebraska, and appear before the Board of Directors, SASM. Dr. Tarry did say that they were working on getting 049 into the museum and that I would get a telephone call in April. More on that when it occurs.
As you can see, the SAC ACCA is working very hard to get our last EC135C into the museum and preserved for history. We will keep you informed of all future efforts. If you have any questions or would like to be informed of any update of this project contact Fred at firstname.lastname@example.org.