PALMDALE – Sporting the Thunderbirds insignia and color scheme, the refurbished F-100 “Spirit of Palmdale” was unveiled to great fanfare Monday morning in a dedication ceremony, which took place at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark at Palmdale Plant 42.
Palmdale’s Assistant Superintendent of Maintenance, Rod Holtz, said earlier this year, Airpark volunteers earmarked the F-100 as one of the aircrafts that needed to be refurbished. They started sanding off the aircraft’s old paint job and noticed peculiar markings on the aircraft after they got through the first coat of paint, Holtz said.
“We found that this particular aircraft was one of the Thunderbirds that flew in the Theater in Vietnam, so we got the approval through the Air Force to paint it back to a Thunderbird paint scheme, which is what you see today,” Holtz said.
Assemblyman Steve Knight said the F-100 held a special significance to his father, William J. “Pete” Knight, who flew 253 combat missions in the F-100 in Vietnam. The newly refurbished F-100 also bares the name Col WM “Pete” Knight.
“Pete Knight might have flown 53 missions in the F-100, but I gotta tell you, he never enjoyed them anywhere near as much as I enjoyed my one mission,” quipped Larry Chimbole, Palmdale’s first mayor.
With great humor, Chimbole recalled his one time flying the F-100. He said he did not feel a thing travelling through the sound barrier.
“We went through the sound barrier and I did have my hand on the stick, but that’s as far as I could go,” Chimbole said. “That was the day that I flew the fastest I’ve flown in my life…”
David Smith, of the AV Chapter of the Air Force Association, the organization that has adopted the aircraft as part of the City’s Adopt-a-Plane program, also spoke at the dedication ceremony.
“You see this beautiful airplane out there and what I ask to you to do in concert with Air Force Association’s mission is look inside of it…” said Smith. “I want you to look inside of it and understand that some phenomenal technology that was born and grown here in the Antelope Valley built that aircraft. And that aircraft was rooted in technology that came from young people…”
He encouraged the audience to think of ways to spur the growth of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in our youth.
“Asking our children to move further, get smarter, and do great things for this country,” Smith said.
Gail Knight, widow of the late Assemblyman William J. “Pete” Knight was presented with a commendation in honor of the restoration of the F-100 Spirit of Palmdale, along with a portrait of the plane.
Gail Knight also had a story to share regarding the F-100. She said as one of her birthday gifts, her late husband had taken her for a ride on the F-100.
Originally designed as a land-based fair-weather air superiority fighter for the US Air Force (USAF), the F-100 was later developed into a land-based all-weather multi-mission aircraft capable of close air support, interception and forward air control. It was the first operational US air force aircraft to exceed the speed of sound in level flight, and its maximum speed is 910 miles per hour.
The F-100 “Spirit of Palmdale” is one of 17 restored aircraft on display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark at Palmdale Plant 42. Other Aircraft on display include: A-4, A-7, AGM-28, B-52, C-140, C-46, F-4, F-5, F-14, F-86, F-101, F-104, F-105, T-33, T-38 and a Triumph. The Airpark also includes a 1/8-scale model of the B-2, and assorted engines and parts of other aircraft. For more information on the F-100 “Spirit of Palmdale” and the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark at Palmdale Plant 42, visit http://www.cityofpalmdale.org/airpark/.