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Fort Worth’s Forgotten History: Veterans Memorial Air Park

By Joel Thomas CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COM
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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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FORT WORTH (CBS11 NEWS) – Fort Worth is considered one of the top cities in the world for airplane production. It’s ties to aviation go back to before World War I.

But there is growing concern the city’s aviation history will take off forever unless something is done soon.

In a quiet corner of Meacham Field sits an aging fleet of what were once some of the world’s mightest warplanes: an F-111 bomber manufactured in Fort Worth, an F-14 Tomcat, two F-4 Phantoms and many more planes.

But no one was stopping by the Veterans Memorial Air Park to see those planes Tuesday.  Instead the crowds were less than a mile away at Meacham’s terminal building where two mighty World War 2 bombers, a B-17 and a B-24, and a P-51 fighter rumbled to a stop on the airport apron.

This is what people pay to see.

They are living pieces of aviation history that excite and inspire people.  The planes lured mayor Betsy Price and two council members  and city leaders into the sky to take a flight on the B-17. Visitors will pay hundreds of dollars for just a few minutes in the sky aboard one of the planes. And that money supports the preservation of the aircraft.

Aircraft sit outside at Fort Worth's Veterans Memorial Air Park (Photo by Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News, CBSDFW.COM)

Aircraft sit outside at Fort Worth’s Veterans Memorial Air Park (Photo by Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News, CBSDFW.COM)

But there’s one big problem for planes with direct ties to Fort Worth’s past.

These planes are only visitors to Fort Worth.  They’re being preserved in other cities. Fort Worth has no such ties to its century old aviation history.

“We’re losing a lot of heritage here and its a shame,” said Council Member Zim Zimmerman whose been at the forefront of raising awareness about the city’s aviation history.

Fort Worth’s aviation history is often unsheltered hulks in various states of decay or restoration.

There is no sheltered place for them in a city most believe has built more airplanes than any other city in the world.

“I guess the problem is getting the word out to people who might have an interest of someday wanting to preserve essentially 95, 96 years of military aviation in this town,” said Bill Morris, a Fort Worth aviation historian.

The city and private groups have tried repeatedly to build a central aviation museum.

But despite all their efforts the funding has not been there or the efforts have fallen apart in the economic downturn.

Now, many believe time is quickly running out for the airplanes and for the veteran volunteers trying to preserve them, including Amon G. Carter’s rare 1920’s airliner which is about to be sold to an out of town buyer if the Air Park can’t raise miney to buy it.

“We’re going to have to find somebody who can be a champion to it,” Zimmerman said.  “You know, Ed Bass and his wife were champions for theo Bass Hall. We’ve got to find somebody like that who has a passion for education who can carry the ball through.”

The Air Park recently acquired one of three Blue Angels F-18’s on display in the U.S.  And the visiting vintage planes will be at Meacham until Wednesday at noon.  Volunteers hope both will draw attention to preservation work needed in Fort Worth year ’round.

For more information visit: veteransmemorialairpark.com

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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