Aviation Heritage Park
From the time man first took flight in the early 1900s to the recent shuttle missions into space, South Central Kentucky has played a significant role in the history of aviation. One of the first pilots to fly in combat claimed ties to Bowling Green, as did a World War I flying ace, a pioneer instructor pilot, a Vietnam war hero, Commanders of the famed Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels, the Commander/Pilot of “Marine One”, the presidential helicopter unit and the Mission Commander for the space shuttle Atlantis. These aviators – and their ties to South Central Kentucky – deserve to be recognized and celebrated so that future generations might be made aware of and motivated by their extraordinary achievements. This is the mission of Aviation Heritage Park.
Backstory and Context
The premiere aircraft is a F-4D Phantom II 550, a plane with historic significance. Brigadier General Dan Cherry, a Bowling Green native, was at the controls on April 16, 1972 when he shot down a North Vietnamese Mig-21 during the Vietnam War. An amazing story of reconciliation regarding this fateful day is told by Cherry in the book, "My Enemy, My Friend," available in the Visitors Bureau's gift shop.
The second plane to join the display was a Grumman F9F-5 Panther. It is a representation of the plane Johnny Magda, Kentuckian, WKU alumnus, Commander of the Blue Angels and Korean War hero, flew.
Also on display is a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, dedicated on October 22, 2011. The plane honors Gen. Russ Dougherty, a Glasgow native who flew more than 70 types of aircraft and commanded the Strategic Air Command during the Cold War. The T-33 also bears the name of U.S. Air Force Capt. Robert E. Mitchell who was killed in the same type of plane during a training exercise in 1962.
"Landing" in October 2013 was a USAF F-111 honoring Bowling Green native Col. Arnie Franklin, who led the 1986 USA"F raid on Libya. This particular plane was a part of that raid and was also the exact plane to drop the last bomb on the last night of the Desert Storm War.
Then in September 2014, AHP welcomed a NASA T-38 Talon to its collection, only the 12th site for public display of this particular type of aircraft. It was the world’s first supersonic trainer primarily used by the USAF before NASA astronauts began using them for necessary travel and as chase planes. This T-38 will be on display in honor of local astronaut Terry Wilcutt.