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Organizers still raising funds to bring A-4 Skyhawk plane to Brasher Falls

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BRASHER FALLS - Sixty-five contributors have helped financially support a plan to bring an A-4 Skyhawk plane to Brasher Falls for display across from the Brasher Municipal Building, according to one of the organizers.

James Kelley said since they started raising funds in October they’ve accumulated $21,740 in donations. Among the recent donations was one for $5,000 from SeaComm Federal Credit Union.

The group has set of a goal of $75,000 to land the Vietnam-era plane for display as a tribute to area veterans.

“We expect to have 25 to 30 more who have not responded yet,” he said.

Mr. Kelley, David MacMillan and Gene Cummings - the three men behind the plan - had sent out 350 to 400 packages to potential donors.

Mr. Kelley said they’ve received other support in advertising their effort from Real C. “Frenchie” Coupal of Frenchie’s Chevrolet and Paul B. Morrow of SkinStitch Corps. Both men have electronic signs at their establishments and have put up information about the “Bringing the A-4 Home” project. Mr. MacMillan worked with Mr. Coupal and Mr. Morrow on that aspect, according to Mr. Kelley.

While the group has already been qualified by the U.S. government for a plane, he said engineering plans have to be approved by officials at the Pensacola Naval Air Station before they can get “on the pecking list.” Those plans would indicate how they propose displaying the plane, which would be located on the banks of the St. Regis River across from the Brasher Municipal Building.

“Clarkson did a lot of work for us,” Mr. Kelley said, noting they still needed a final drawing to share with Pensacola officials. “It’s in Clarkson’s hands now. As soon as we receive it, that’s what we need to get final approval.”

He said Richard E. Maginn, owner of Heritage Homes, Massena, has offered to build the stand and platform based on the architectural renderings by Clarkson students.

“It’s a tremendous savings for us,” he said.

Hassan A. Fayad has offered his engineering expertise and will stamp and certify the plans before they’re sent to Pensacola, Mr. Kelley said.

“We hope to have them done by the end of the month. Within a month I hope we have plans approved and ready and on their way to Pensacola. Once we get the plans approved, we can get on the pecking list,” he said.

Once they’re on that list, they’ll seek quotes from three different sources and arrange to have the plane transported from “the boneyard” - a storage area for aircraft that are retired from service - to Brasher.

Still undetermined for costs are the preparation of the plane and a camera perimeter lighting that will be installed around the display to provide 24-hour coverage.

“After we get done, we’ll have a better idea of how much we need,” Mr. Kelley said.

The three local organizers are working with Munson “Sid” Snedeker, another Brasher Falls native and 1954 graduate of Massena High School, who spent a career in the U.S. Marine Corps before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in October 1981.

Mr. Snedeker and his wife, Ginger, own and operate G&S Warbirds, which can help individuals or groups locate planes and help find someone to ferry them to another location.

Mr. Snedeker was the recipient of the last A-4 Skyhawk built by the McDonnell Douglas Corporation during a Feb. 27, 1979 ceremony in Long Beach, Calif.

“I was presented the log books to this aircraft by the CEO John Brisidine. In attendance was the designer of the venerable Skyhawk, Ed Hinneman,” he wrote in a letter to Mr. Kelley.

As the commanding officer of Marine Attack Squadron VMA 331, Mr. Snedeker said they accepted 24 of the “Last of the Best” most combat ready aircraft in the naval inventory. McDonnell Douglas produced 2,960 of the aircraft and, after it was replaced by the AV8B “Harrier,” the last A-4 went on display in the museum at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

Mr. Snedeker, who has received the Distinguished Flying Cross with three gold stars and has flown with the Navy Blue Angels, logged more than 6,800 hours in the A-4. Of those, more than 940 were in combat, with 536 missions in Vietnam. He still flies the A-4 in civilian life.

The A-4 Skyhawk was a carrier-capable ground-attack aircraft developed for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. It was capable of delivering nuclear weapons using a low altitude bombing system and played a key role in the Vietnam War.

Mr. Kelley, Mr. MacMillan and Mr. Cummings chose that plane because of its smaller size, the men said.

The plane would be dismantled at its point of origin, shipped in a truck and then readied by the men for display in the town. It would have no engine and weighs between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds. They would need an area large enough to cover its overall length of 36 feet.

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