Efforts to restore a military jet for display at James Clemens High School are cruising along with little turbulence.
Students are putting the finishing touches on the wings before beginning refurbishments to the tail section.
Col. Courtney Taylor with the JR.ROTC program said work on the main fuselage should begin this summer.
“The whole community – students, parents and boosters – is excited about the opportunity to get a fighter jet displayed as the centerpiece of the campus,” Col. Taylor said.
“It definitely will promote school pride, and the project is building cohesion and camaraderie among parents and boosters. It is fitting to have a jet display for James Clemens being that this is such a strong military community brimming with top-notch defense and aerospace firms,” he said.
The refurbishment requires calculation and work skills from several fronts. Students have been sanding, making engineering calculations, restoring sheet metal, painting and performing other refinishing tasks, he said.
The school can take pride in doing much of the restoration work, Col. Taylor said. The Jr. ROTC and students in the school’s shop and aerospace engineering programs are doing the bulk of the work.
The jet is a Northtrop Grumman-built Navy TF-9 Cougar fighter jet on permanent loan from the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. While the jet never saw combat, it was used by the Navy’s Blue Angels flying team.
The Madison City Board of Education acquired it a year ago to display as the centerpiece of the JCHS campus. The school’s namesake is the James Clemens Jets.
The aircraft is currently staged at the Huntsville Military Veterans Museum until restoration. The wings were transported to the school in December with the tail section soon to follow.
A business owner agreed to loan warehouse space nearby for the fuselage restoration, reassembly and final paint.
Col. Taylor said the Naval Museum approved a paint scheme of dark blue with the lighter Columbia blue trim as opposed to the Navy’s traditional dark blue and gold trim. The school’s colors include a light blue.
Jr. ROTC and Baseball Boosters initiated efforts to raise money through corporate sponsors. Donations of time and money are still needed to cover the estimated $30,000 tab, which includes the pole mount and concrete base for the jet.
Anyone wishing to contribute can send a check for the jet restoration to James Clemens High School, 11306 County Line Road, Madison, AL 35756. Questions can be directed to Col. Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org