Aviation Heritage Park at Basil Griffin Park on Three Springs Road was instigated by the arrival of a special, retired airplane. Phantom 550, an F4-D Phantom II flown by Bowling Green native Dan Cherry, retired Brigadier General of the United States Air Force, shot down a North Vietnamese MIG-21 fighter in a combat mission during the Vietnam War in 1972. He flew 295 combat missions, and also commanded the Air Force Thunderbirds.
During a visit to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, General Cherry learned the jet was grounded and on display at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) hall in Enon, Ohio and went to observe. After speaking to and arranging with the local VFW, the plane was disassembled to prepare for the journey to Bowling Green where it will help honor local military aviators.
Along with General Cherry, several more of America’s finest aviators from this area will be honored. These include: Bert Hall, one of America’s first combat aviators; Victor Strahm, Kentucky’s first WWI Flying Ace; Johnny Magda, commander of the Navy Blue Angels; Ken Fleenor, a retired Brigadier General; General Russ Daugherty, commander of Strategic Air Command; Terry Willcott, a NASA astronaut; and Colonel Arnie Franklin, mission commander for the USAF participation in Operation El Dorado Canyon, the 1986 raid on Libya .
The park is an ongoing project. It is designed and constructed to include a landscaped area that accommodates up to a total of seven planes. Currently there are three aircraft displayed in the park. Joining Phantom 550 is an F-9F Panther in honor of Johnny Magda, and a T-33 Shooting Star in honor of General Dougherty.
The next aircraft scheduled for display at AHP is a General Dynamics F-111F “Aardvark” on loan from the United States Air Force to Warren County. It was unofficially given the nickname of “Aardvark” because of its long slightly upturned nose. It is believed to be the only USAF aircraft to go through its entire service career without being officially named. Just before its retirement on July 27, 1996, the USAF officially named it the “Aardvark”.
Visit Our Aircraft page to learn more about the planes on display at the Park!