Castle museum gets jet trainer for restoration

Air Force craft is on long-term loan

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comDecember 24, 2012 

— The Castle Air Museum has received a new addition to its growing collection.

On Thursday, a convoy of four trucks carried a T-37 from the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center in Tucson, Ariz., said Tony Rocha, curator for the museum.

This was the primary jet trainer for U.S. Air Force pilots from the 1950s until 2006, when they were discontinued, Rocha said. The planes have the ability to fly up to 425 miles per hour, he said.

The museum acquired the economical twin-engine T-37 from the U.S. National Air Force Museum, he said, which is the legal guardian of the plane.

"They can pull an aircraft at any time," he said. "But it's ours for the long term; we are not concerned about it."

The plane is missing its wings and tail, but most of the the aircraft is intact.

Volunteers at the museum will work on its restoration, Rocha said. For some planes, the restoration process takes several years.

"Sometimes it's a matter of finding parts," he said.

But the T-37 is pretty much complete, Rocha said.

"We just need to put it back together," he said.

Rocha said they hope for the plane to be on display at the museum by fall of next year.

Every time a new plane comes into the museum, it helps get more people interested in volunteering, Rocha said. After a plane from the U.S. Navy came in, a few Navy veterans began to volunteer to complete the restoration. Rocha said sometimes it's people who worked on the planes or even flew them. They perform restoration work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

There are about 150 volunteers overall at the museum, he said.

When the museum opened in 1981, it only had eight planes. Today, it has about 55, Rocha said.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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