Aviation Heritage Park at Basil Griffin Park on Three Springs Road was instigated by the arrival of a special, retired airplane. During a visit to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, General Cherry learned the jet was grounded and on display at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) hall in Enon, Ohio and went to observe. After speaking to and arranging with the local VFW, the plane was disassembled to prepare for the journey to Bowling Green where it will help honor local military aviators.
Along with General Cherry, several more of America’s finest aviators from this area will be honored. These include: Bert Hall, one of America’s first combat aviators; Victor Strahm, Kentucky’s first WWI Flying Ace; Johnny Magda, commander of the Navy Blue Angels; Ken Fleenor, a retired Brigadier General; General Russ Daugherty, commander of Strategic Air Command; Terry Willcott, a NASA astronaut; and Colonel Arnie Franklin, mission commander for the USAF participation in Operation El Dorado Canyon, the 1986 raid on Libya.
The park is an ongoing project. It is designed and constructed to include a landscaped area that accommodates up to a total of seven planes. Currently there are five aircraft displayed in the park. Joining Phantom 550 is an F-9F Panther in honor of Johnny Magda, and a T-33 Shooting Star in honor of General Dougherty, an F-11a Ardvaark honoring Colonel Arnie Franklin and the 2014 addition, a T-38.
The most recent aircraft to the park is a Northrup T-38 Talon. This plane was specifically selected to add to the park’s collection because of its fantastic history. This Talon has been flown by every Mercury astronaut, every Gemini astronaut, and every man that has ever walked on the moon. All the planes at the park tell the story of a regional aviator, and this one is no different.
The new addition honors astronaut and U.S. Marine Col. Terry Wilcutt, a Russellville native and Western Kentucky University graduate. Wilcutt has more than 1,000 hours in space including four shuttle flights, two as pilot and two as mission commander. After a long and distinguished career with the Marines, he joined NASA and currently serves as the Director of the Safety and Mission Assurance Directive at Johnson Space Center. Additionally, the T-38 honors David H. Finney, from Auburn, who was the Chief of the Johnson Space Center Aircraft Operations Division in the Flight Crew Operations Directorate until his retirement from NASA in July 2008.
Visit Our Aircraft page to learn more about the planes on display at the Park! Aviation Heritage Park is located at the corner of Three Springs Road and Smallhouse Road at Basil Griffin Park.
The park is open daylight hours. Admission and parking is free.