MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Over the next few weeks, it will be hard to miss the careful disassembly of the KB-50J Superfortress and the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, from the Memorial Park at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
The KB-50J, especially, has a significant history as it is known as the oldest remaining tanker modified for air refueling and was delivered to the Air Force in December of 1950.
“The base commander of MacDill at the time, Col. Charles T. Ohlinger III, and the airpark committee had a vision to expand the park with aircraft to represent each era of the base’s history,” said Steven Ove, 6th Air Mobility Wing base historian. “Once the landscaping of the park was finished, the KB-50J found its way to MacDill in late 1995.”
Ove explained that once 9/11 happened and military operations changed dramatically, the maintainers assigned to care for the aircraft in the airpark were pulled, leaving maintenance and care to be contracted out.
“Maintaining the historic static display aircraft in our highly corrosive environment is destructive to these irreplaceable artifacts,” stated Ove. “Additionally, the aircraft needs to be restored every so often and it isn’t very cost-effective for the base.”
Because of the required maintenance for the aircraft in Tampa Bay’s salty environment, the KB-50 will be transferring to the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, the only Air Force field museum dedicated to preserving airlift and air refueling heritage.
“The AMCM is unquestionably the single most appropriate location for this historic aircraft,” said John Taylor, the director of the AMCM. “We already have identified a preliminary display position, placing this historic aircraft in line with the two other AMCM tankers, a KC-97 Stratofreighter and a KC-135 Stratotanker.
“This will provide an arrangement of substantial impact, depicting an air refueling lineage of 60 years’ worth of strategic and tactical air refueling history.”
In a community that celebrates more than 75 years of partnership, there has been a large amount of shared interest in relocating this aircraft to AMCM.
“The shared intent of our organizations is to leverage the much greater access of AMCM to maximize the public benefit by relocating the aircraft to a field museum befitting its rarity,” Taylor said. “The addition of the KB-50 would give the AMCM the largest collection of tankers in the USA.”
AMCM is ideally suited to maintain this aircraft as they have technical experts to support heritage operations. This transition to AMCM also allows the aircraft to be admired by hundreds of thousands of people annually.
Decommissioning of the park is scheduled to begin in early December starting with the KB-50.
While the first air craft is being dismantled, the F-16 will begin disassembly shortly after. The Arizona Air National Guard headquarters in Phoenix will become its new home.
As the air park is clearing out, wing leadership is taking this opportunity to expand on the vision of the existing Memorial Park, building it into a comprehensive community park that will host a broader and more historically accurate heritage display while also focusing on low maintenance and cost sustainability.
There are plans to replace the current static display aircraft with weatherproof displays of miniature models of the eight most impactful aircraft flown at MacDill.
The park is also planned to house a covered pavilion that will be a central location for future ceremonies and base events.
“The previous committee that created the Memorial Park set the foundation for this vision,” said Ove. “We want to make sure they understand that what they did was very important and we know they’ll be proud of the park once we finish this project.”
While plans are still being refined, it is estimated that the community park will be completed by Summer of 2018.