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Photo by James Moss
The LTV A-7E Corsair II airplane at Robert Stille Edwardsville Township Community Park. The Corsair II was used from Vietnam to Operation Desert Storm. It was retired in 1991 after more than 20 years of service.
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Photo by James Moss
Edwardsville Township Supervisor Frank Miles reviews maintenance logs for the Corsair II.
EDWARDSVILLE — Edwardsville Township Supervisor Frank Miles was there the day, almost 25 years ago, when the LTV A-7E Corsair II airplane arrived at Robert Stille Edwardsville Township Community Park.
In the 25 years it has been on display, the airplane has become a fixture of the park and town.
“The significance of the plane is that, while the park is called Robert Stille Edwardsville Township Park, everybody knows it by Airplane Park,” Miles said. “It’s been a feature in that park, and it is actually part of the town. If you talk about Airplane Park, people know what you’re talking about.”
A quarter century of exposure to the elements, however, has caused the plane to lose some of its luster since it first arrived at the park.
“There has been very little repainting or maintenance that has been conducted on the plane,” Miles said. “Over time, there has been corrosion, rust and holes that have formed in parts of the plane. And it’s obviously become faded.”
Township Supervisor Robert Stille, the park’s namesake, first brought the beloved aircraft to the area. He worked for years with former congressman Jerry Costello to bring the plane.
The airplane was flown to Scott Air Force Base, where its avionic system, engines and weaponry were removed. A helicopter flew the plane to the park, where it has remained.
“We can’t discount the effort that was put into acquiring the plane by not properly caring for it and restoring it,” Jeanne Wojcieszak, Edwardsville Township administrator, said.
The plane is on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla. The loan is “in perpetuity,” Wojcieszak said. The efforts to restore the plane are part of the loan agreement, which stipulates the aircraft must be in “display-ready condition.”
“They’ve been instrumental in assisting us with the restoration effort,” Wojcieszak said of the museum. “They are very relieved, happy and encouraged that we’re taking ownership to make sure the aircraft is cared for.”
A group of local airmen stationed at Scott Air Force Base approached Miles about helping to restore the plane. He enthusiastically agreed to their offer.
“These guys were the experts. That’s what they do for a living,” he said. “We undertook a program where they did an analysis of the condition of the plane.”
Once they had the plane’s specifications, Miles and his team sought bids for the restoration project, which includes repainting the aircraft, corrosion repair and lighting the plane so it’s visible at night. Initial estimates ranged from more than $20,000 to approximately $50,000.
Previous township supervisors examined options connected to restoring the plane but had been unable to find funds to do so, according to Miles. So he took a different approach.
“What I decided to do was put together a program that involved the community in the restoration effort,” he explained. He outlined a plan that involves three participant groups — the township, the corporate community in Edwardsville and residents.
Wojcieszak, along with interns from SIU Edwardsville, have worked with Miles to develop a fundraising plan and manage events that are part of that plan.
The fundraising campaign, called Mission Preservation: The Campaign to Restore the Plane, includes several elements, such as “dine out” events at restaurants, crowdfunding on Booster.com and direct mail solicitation.
Overall, the campaign has raised more than $9,500, not including money from a few corporate donations or funds from the township. The budget for the restoration is approximately $50,000.
That figure includes restoration of the airplane and an upgrade that would allow the township to construct a veterans memorial around the plane’s base. The memorial would be for any person who served in the military, past or present.
Wojcieszak said they hope to have the restoration phase of the project finished by the summer. She said they want to begin the veterans monument aspect of the campaign in the fall and finish by Memorial Day next year.
In the meantime, people can help the project by donating, volunteering at an unannounced community event planned for the summer or fall or by sharing information about the project through social media.
For information about Mission Preservation, including how to donate, visit missionpreservation.org.