Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

April 20, 2012

Air Force landmark prepped to leave Valdosta

VALDOSTA — Preparations by Moody Air Force Base and City of Valdosta personnel have begun to relocate the F-86 which has been a fixture on the corner of North Ashley Street and Woodrow Wilson Drive for about 30 years.

The plane is set to be moved on April 24 and 25 between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. to limit inconvenience for motorists.

The future home of the plane will be at the President George W. Bush Air Park at Moody Field, named after the U.S. president who received his pilot training at Moody from 1968 to 1969.

It will join an impressive display of aircraft technology at the park which includes the A-10, F-105, A-7, P-40 and the T-33, each of which has served the Flying Tigers at Moody Air Force Base.

Public access to the Air Park will be limited but, according to City Manager Larry Hanson, there are plans to design an appropriate memorial within the 20-acre site at Five Points as part of the final Municipal Auditorium project.

While the plane has been an important reminder to the Valdosta community of the significant contributions from Moody Air Force Base over the years, it has also served as a memorial to Valdosta native Major Lyn McIntosh.

McIntosh lost his life during the ill-fated mission of April 25, 1980, to rescue Americans held hostage after Iranians seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

This past February, Valdosta City Council unanimously approved Moody’s request to relocate the F-86 aircraft to the George W. Bush Airpark.

Moody intends to refurbish the aircraft for display. The McIntosh family will be invited to the re-dedication ceremony for the aircraft.

The United States Air Force Museum is the actual owner of the F-86. As the assigned custodian of the plane, the City of Valdosta was granted permission from the museum to relocate the aircraft.

Hanson stated that the Air Force had offered to replace the currently existing F-86 with an F-4 aircraft, but said that the F-4 “was nearly twice as long and would not fit in the area.”

Part of this relocation process also included the City of Valdosta and Moody Air Force Base working with the surviving children of Major McIntosh.

Mark McIntosh, who lives in Tennessee and had direct conversations with city officials, said the process was difficult not only because it dealt with his father’s memory but also because he felt the family’s wishes were ignored.

“I believe it is very unfortunate that a memorial of any kind would be removed from public view and/or access,” said McIntosh.

“My memories of the memorial conjure pride in my hometown willing to recognize that one of their own was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in an attempt to rescue 58 U.S. citizens that they had never met.

“I asked on several occasions for an open and advertised public meeting to help determine the fate of the airplane,” he said. “I have made it abundantly clear in my dealings with a public official for the City of Valdosta that I believe the memorial belongs to the people of Valdosta and it should be the citizens that shape or decide the fate of it.”

Although the request from Moody Air Force Base was approved during an open City Council meeting, Hanson stated that, in hindsight, more could have been done to solicit public opinion about the move.

Both Mark and Scott McIntosh adamantly emphasized their dealings with Moody Air Force Base and Col. Mark A. Ruse, commander of the 23rd Mission Support Group at Moody Air Force Base, were professional and accommodating.

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