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NEWS | Sept. 13, 2016

Making old new again

By Airman 1st Class Thomas T. Charlton Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The Air Force C-141B Starlifter aircraft performed both tactical and strategic airlift missions and flew out of Charleston Air Force Base from Aug. 14, 1965 to Sept. 7, 2000.

During the time the C-141 was stationed at Charleston a member of the 437th Maintenance Squadron built a scale model of the plane which has remained on the base, in various locations, ever since.

Over the years, the model fell into disrepair. Recently, however, members of the sheet metal and corrosion shop in the 437th MXS volunteered on their own time to restore the model.

“We received the aircraft model in late June and just finished the project last week,” said Tech Sgt. Andrew Finley, 437th MXS corrosion control non-commissioned officer in charge. “This model was originally built by an individual who worked in our shop when we had C-141’s on this base. It used to hang in the rafters of our building, but the bowling alley requested it because their name is ‘Starlifter Lanes.’”

Reconditioning a model is an arduous and time consuming process requiring specific attention to detail.

First, the model was pressure washed from nose to tail, then the entire surface was sanded and all cracks and holes were repaired. Next, the multi-stage painting process, including touch ups, was completed and, finally, the appropriate decals and aircraft markings were added.

Choosing the proper tail number proved to be challenging, however.

“Once we began working on the model, we started to think about which tail number we should give it,” said Finley.

Looking for help, Finley contacted Stanley Gohl, 437th Airlift Wing historian, for assistance in identifying historic C-141 tail numbers.

“We chose tail number 40652 in memory of a crew who lost their lives in Knoxville, Tennessee on Aug. 31, 1982,” said Gohl. “One day a sergeant called to tell me a plaque for the crewmembers had been placed anonymously at the crash site. A few days later, the 437th Maintenance Squadron called me about the model they were refurbishing and asked what C-141 they should dedicate it to; I knew it was a perfect choice.”

The model aircraft honored a C-141B Starlifter stationed out of Charleston Air Force Base.

According to Gohl, the plane was flying on a Special Operations Low Level I training mission over Tennessee where it crashed into a mountain called John’s Knob. The aircraft was found the next day on Sept. 1, 1982 and all nine crew members perished.

 “It has been an honor to contribute to their memory,” said Finley. “Getting to watch the renovation of this model develop from start through its final stage was the greatest thing for me.  I couldn’t be more proud of my Airmen who worked on it with me. Thanks to them, there isn’t a single thing I would do differently.”

The recently refurbished C-141 model will be placed next to Starlifter Lanes during a dedication ceremony later this year.