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Historical aircraft won't land in Gilmer

By Christina Lane
July 6, 2011 at 11 p.m.

A Gilmer museum's hopes to acquire a historical military aircraft have died as the City Council decided to decline the plane at the request of a nonprofit group, City Manager Jeff Ellington said Wednesday.

The Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum in Gilmer had been in negotiations for months to acquire an F-model Super Sabre, a jet fighter used by the U.S. Air Force in the Vietnam War. The group Friends of the Super Sabre asked the city and the museum to decline the aircraft, however, because the group wanted to establish its own museum.

The nonprofit group originally was working with the Gilmer museum to establish its Super Sabre museum in East Texas. The city was offered and sent letters accepting two Super Sabres - one that is on display at Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls and the other at the aircraft bone yard of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

But when the group noticed that necessary paperwork to transfer ownership of the craft to private from military ownership was taking too long, Friends of the Super Sabre withdrew from the process.

Steve Dean, a military pilot who operates Flight of the Phoenix Museum, still wanted to acquire one of the airplanes, but the nonprofit group requested the museum decline both. Ellington said the Friends of the Super Sabre wanted to establish an entire museum for the famed aircraft, with storage at a new site once it is acquired.

Dean contacted the city to say he wanted to "bow to the wishes of the Friends of the Super Sabre," Ellington said. Dean asked that the City Council rescind its previous vote to accept the aircraft and instead to decline it. In response, the Gilmer City Council voted unanimously not to accept the airplane.



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