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Unveiling a star at Aviation Heritage Park’s annual Hangar Party

Aviation supporters attend revealing of park’s Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star

By PAM CASSADY, The Daily News, pcassady@bgdailynews.com
Saturday, June 25, 2011 11:35 PM CDT

Pete Rodman/Daily News<br>Tammy Schaffer of Bowling Green checks out the cockpit Saturday of Aviation Heritage Park's new Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star at Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport.

Six years ago, when a small group of aviation buffs set out to create an aviation park in Bowling Green, they barely even had a plan.

“Aviation Heritage Park started out as just a discussion,” said board member Jerry Bailey, “and then a big dream and then it came true.”

Bailey was speaking to a crowd gathered at the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport for the Hangar Party and the unveiling of the park’s newest addition, a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star.

When the group that started Aviation Heritage Park began, it knew it wanted this park to be like no other. It wouldn’t just have planes on display, it would have stories of local residents to go along with each plane.

Pete Rodman/Daily News Dinner is served in the hangar Saturday during the annual Aviation Heritage Park Hangar Party at the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport.

Board member Ray Buckberry, who has been involved since the beginning, said group members just took it one step at a time.

“We found that there’s a tremendous interest in aviation in southcentral Kentucky,” Buckberry said. “And we started seeing all the local aviation connections.”

The first plane on display at the park was a U.S. Air Force F4D Phantom II to honor Brig. Gen. Dan Cherry of Bowling Green. The second plane was an F9F-5 Panther in honor of Lt. Cmdr. John J. Magda Jr., a Western Kentucky University graduate from Oldham County.

The T-33 is in honor of Glasgow native and Western Kentucky University graduate Gen. Russell Dougherty, who frequently flew a T-33 plane from Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Neb., to Washington, D.C., while he served as commander of the Strategic Air Command. Dougherty died in 2007 at age 86, but members of his family were on hand for the unveiling.

“It’s just beautiful,” Mark Dougherty, Russell Dougherty’s son, said of the restoration.

Calling his father “a Kentucky gentlemen,” Dougherty said he was happy to be there as they honored his father and he had many stories he could tell about his dad. Gen. Russell Dougherty served 35 years in the military and retired a four-star general.

Board President Arnie Franklin said they were excited to have the Dougherty family at the event, which is the group’s biggest fundraiser each year. The Hangar Party featured several aircraft on display and information on local aviators, as well as dinner and music.

“It gets better every year,” Franklin said of the party.

Franklin said he’s also excited to have the third plane ready to put on display at the park on Three Springs Road and is looking forward to adding more planes.

“We have a great future ahead of us,” Franklin said. “We’ve got it all mapped out.”

The group has received approval from NASA to take possession of a NASA T-38, which is flown by astronauts for proficiency and to travel between Houston and Cape Canaveral, Fla. That aircraft will honor Russellville native astronaut Terry Wilcutt.

The group is also looking into getting an F-111, a craft similar to one Franklin flew in the raid on Libya he commanded in 1986.

Buckberry said they ultimately hope to have an indoor facility as well.

As a nonprofit group, the Aviation Heritage Park depends on fundraisers, volunteers and donations. Buckberry said they’re always glad to have more people get involved. To find out more about the park, visit www.aviationheritagepark.com.

Hugh David Roe, one of the group members who started the park, said he is amazed and thrilled by the progress the park has made.

“It’s had growth that was hard to imagine,” Roe said. “I think it’s got a great future.”

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