JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. —
For the past few weeks, a C-7A Caribou has grabbed most of the Fort Eustis community’s attention as a restoration team returns the aircraft to its former glory—a U.S. Army Golden Knights plane.
The restoration was two-fold—move the aircraft to a more accessible area in the U.S. Army Transportation Museum’s outdoor gallery and refurbish its exterior.
The typically-static display gained a crowd when it took flight again as the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) lifted the aircraft in the air with a crane and moved it to a new concrete pad, Oct. 23-Nov. 3, 2017.
“We moved her because not many people would go look at her in her original location, which would get very muddy,” said Claire Samuelson, Transportation Museum director. “We put her in an aggressive stance and lifted her much higher so she can be seen. I think she will bring pride to our community.”
According to Samuelson, restoring the aircraft not only beautifies it, but also prolongs the its lifespan.
Like Samuelson, retired U.S. Army Col. Tom Meacham, Caribou restoration lead contractor, said preserving Aviation history and military culture is at the forefront of his mind.
“We do about 60 restoration projects a year,” said Meacham. Bringing them back to their glory is important for us to give back to the next generation. We take each one, review its history and only take selective jobs, because we only do jobs that represent something you wouldn’t normally see.
Samuelson said the task would not be possible without the funding. The U.S. Army Center of Military History provided the funds to build the cement pad and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command funded the refurbishment of the historic aircraft.
Although the Caribou was used in the Vietnam War, this aircraft spent most of its career as a Golden Knights plane, driving the decision to paint it as such. The only other Caribou on display is in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where it is instead painted to coincide with Vietnam era missions.
“A lot of people question why we didn’t paint it olive drab, and that’s because it’s career was spent mostly as a Golden Knights plane,” said Samuelson. “We get some Golden Knights coming to visit the museum to see their plane and as far as I know, in the Army system, this is the only Golden Knights plane on display.”
After the aircraft was moved to its new platform, the restoration team then began corrosion removal and necessary repairs, using corrosion-inhibiting paint to protect the aircraft. The team worked to stay as true to the original design, colors and details as possible.
“With this one being the Golden Knights and myself being an Army veteran, I had a lot of feelings for the project,” said Meacham. “It’s always a really good feeling when the job’s done. You walk away and see a beautiful piece of equipment.”
Samuelson hopes the restoration project will reinforce the community’s desire to support keeping the static aircraft around post in tip-top shape.