F-102 static display restored by MTANG members

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson
  • 120th Fighter Wing
Five Montana Air National Guard Airmen spent the first days of September repairing the exterior of an F-102 Delta Dagger placed on static display in the Great Falls Lions Park.
The 120th Fighter Wing aircraft maintenance personnel stepped up to restore the older fighter aircraft after it began showing the effects of exposure to 43 years of direct sunlight and the harsh elements of the weather.

This was the first vintage military aircraft restoration project that Sheet Metal Journeyman Senior Airman Aaron Duboise worked on. He enjoyed working on the classic fighter aircraft.

"There's sun damage that bleaches out the paint," said Duboise. "Wind, rain, just any sort of erosion can cause the damage over time."

The aircraft was carefully prepared for painting. The maintainers sanded and scraped the old layers of paint and several pieces of sheet metal were formed and applied as patches to the areas of corrosion found on the fuselage. Primer was placed over the repaired area, then a latex-based gray paint was carefully selected to color match the original shade and was applied to the aircraft. Finally, the words, "Air National Guard" were placed back onto the side of the F-102.

120th Maintenance Group personnel have always gone the extra mile when it comes to the appearance of the aircraft assigned to the fighter unit.

This pride in ownership carried over to the quality of work performed on this static aircraft, even though most of the Guard personnel working on the project weren't born when this F-102 flew missions in the sky over Montana.

"When the plane was placed here in August of 1970 I was two months old," said Master Sgt. William Schilling, who serves the unit as a Flight line Expeditor and was the F-102 restoration project liaison. "I think the way the aircraft looks is a reflection of us at the Montana Air National Guard and the pride that we take in our aircraft."

The F-102 restoration work was completed in three days, but the Airmen who worked on the project are confident that the restoration work will last well into the future.

"The amount of corrosion and age-related cracks were significant, but then again it's 60-years-old," said Aircraft Structural Craftsman Tech. Sgt. Jacob Jones. "The work will definitely help prevent any moisture from getting into the aircraft and causing corrosion."

During the restoration work several local residents stopped to talk to the Airman about the project and thanked them for their service.

"The public supports us really well, and being a part of the community it's great to give back when we can," Jones said.

Motorists driving down 10th Avenue South honked and waved to the team as they worked on the aircraft.

The Airmen were glad to help improve the look of a local landmark that was made of an aircraft once flown by members of their unit.

The local Guard unit flew the F-102 model aircraft from 1966 until 1972 when the conversion to the F-106 Delta Dart fighter aircraft began.

According to an old edition of the base newsletter, the Montana Air Guardsman, the F-102 static display was presented to Great Falls Mayor John J. McLaughlin in a brief ceremony held at Lions Park on Aug. 31, 1970.

During the ceremony, the Montana Air National Guard Chief of Staff for Air, Brig. Gen. Rodger D. Young, dedicated the aircraft display to all Air National Guardsmen, past, present and future. A bronze plaque noting this dedication is permanently fixed to the concrete pedestal at the base of the display.