Tax Deductable Donations can be made at any South Louisiana Bank to:
Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 513 Nonprofit Commercial Account
or call Tim Rochel @ 985-209-0619
Our chapter took on a monumentous project seven years ago to place an F-16 on a pedestal next to the new airport office building on Main St. This project is, I'm sure the largest project that we have undertaken to date. With the assistance of the USAF Museum in Dayton Ohio, F-16 tail number 80-0524 was delivered via truck to Houma Terrebonne Airport on August 9, 2014. What follows is a story about our ambitious project as it unfolds, told by Tim Rochel, F-16 Project Lead.
As a child peering over the window ledge of my father's old Chevy, I remember the excitement I felt knowing that I was going to see a beautiful, shiny jet airplane and a huge white ball that seemed to touch the sky as we passed through Houma, on our way to Grand Calliou. My childish imagination soared! Just why were these wondrous things here? Little did I realize that one day I would be in charge of maintaining the very aircraft that was the focus of my childhood dreams and the old ball shaped antenna that was part of the USAF radar installation here would be long gone. When I moved back to the Houma area quite a few years ago, I saw the old jet. It was in terrible condition; peeling paint, green mildew, bird nests, rusted out tie cables, baseball bat dents and bullet holes from a drive-by. No one was maintaining the old bird. After talking to almost every office in Houma, I called Sheriff Jerry Larpenter to get trustees to wash the old gal only to find out that he was trying to get something done to repaint and restore the T-33. With a combined effort of the EAA and the Sheriff, the plane was brought back to the beautiful state it is in today. Another EAA member, Jerry Gonsoulin, and I talked of the T-33 often and how nice it would be to have another display aircraft on the airport grounds. After talking to some local officials and regular citizens, we discovered that most thought it was a great idea, but the funding for such a display was nonexistent. Our thoughts were; get a military aircraft, display it on a pedestal, dedicate it to our military and let donors fund it. That was easier said than done.
My house phone rang. It was just before 5PM Central time on a beautiful June afternoon in 2010. It was Ms Patricia Ochs, Loan Director of the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. With a chuckle, she asked, "Would you settle for an F-16 aircraft instead?" I thought she was joking, as we were possibly looking at getting an older F-4. The F-16 is still a front line fighter but the Air Force had three that they were willing to release for public display. We were competing with the National Office of the Air Guard in Washington D.C., Lackland Air Force Base, and I'm sure many other federal offices to have an F-16 on display. It took five years on a waiting list, but we unbelievably were awarded the F-16. But again, it wasn't just that easy. There were transportation fees that were in the tens of thousands and we had just convinced the USAF, parish government and everyone else that we could accomplish the task without a dime of taxpayers funds. The airframe move from Arizona to Houma was put out for bid and many gracious donors donated enough funds to complete the move. Aircraft Recovery Systems Inc. moved the airframe via truck to Houma. When the owners of T Baker Smith found out that we were building a monument dedicated to our military, they contacted us with a donation of engineering services to complete the pedestal support structure. Another engineering company in Alabama submitted the pedestal support design, free of charge. Our EAA Chapter approached both the Terrebonne Parish Council and the Terrebonne Parish Airport Commission to ask for permission to place the display on airport grounds next to the new airport office building on Main Street. Support for our endeavor was appreciated and space for our monument and parking was given.
The monument project has taken on a momentum all its own. Hammonds Aircraft Maintenance has taken the lead with airframe restoration, preparation and painting. Mr. Newton Boudreaux has taken the job of Construction Manager and Mr. Bill Testroet has taken the job of Finance Manager. Tim Rochel Jr. is our F-16 mechanical adviser. Thankfully these wonderful people are donating their time.
At present the air frame has been repainted to its original factory colors with the 926 FW Louisiana Air Force Reserve colors and 'Cajuns' markings and a tail number of an aircraft that served the Louisiana Air Force Reserve. It is on temporary public display at 200 Aviation Rd. on the airport grounds. It will be moved to its Main Street pedestal when construction is completed.
We Changed the Tail Number
So what really happened to F-16 85-549? And how did we get to change the tail number of our F-16? We were allowed to change the tail number of Arizona Air National Guard 80-524 to Louisiana Air Force Reserve 85-549 after filing a request with the USAF Museum in Dayton Ohio. Tail number 85-549 served with the 926 FW in Belle Chase with the 'Cajuns'. Aircraft 85-549 was delivered to the USAF on April 20, 1987. In December 1992 and was assigned to the 706th Fighter Squadron, 926 Fighter Wing in Belle Chase where it served in Bosnia and Iraq. October 1996 the 926 FW phased out the F-16s and took on A 10s. 85-549 was then assigned to the 457th Fighter Squadron at Carswell AFB, Fort Worth, Texas. While participating in a Red Flag exercise on August 15, 2015 at Nellis AFB, Nevada, 85-549 landed long and collided with another F-16, 85-546. Tail number 85-549 was a total loss and the pilot sustained serious injuries.
The air frame was brought to AMARG at Davis-Monthan AFB and scrapped. No records show that any of the air frame still exists. Now, there is only one F-16, serial number 85-1549 (ours).
Want to volunteer your help?
Project Director 985-209-0619
Manufacturer: General Dynamics
F-16A Block 10 D #80-0524
Date: Assigned to:
Nov. 1981 80th Tactical Fighter Squadron ‘WP’
Wolf Pack, Head Hunters or Juvats
Oct. 1982 17th Tactical Fighter Squadron ‘SW’
Shaw AFB South Carolina
Jan. 1986 61st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron ‘MC’
MacDill AFB Florida
Aug. 1988 148th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron 'AZ'
162nd Fighter Wing
NATO pilot training
August 9, 2014
tail number changed to