James Price?s passion for restoring aircraft to display condition has given the Naval Air Weapons Station a new and exciting look. In 2003, a team of volunteers, lead by Price, completed a multi-year project to create a memorial for Col. Kevin Leffler, former commanding officer of the Marine Aviation Detachment (MAD). Price served under Leffler when he served at the MAD. A restored AV-8-A Harrier now sits on a pedestal at the corner of Blandy and Lauritsen avenues. Price?s latest project is an aircraft park across the street from the U.S. Naval Museum of Armament and Technology. Currently there are four aircraft in place – Hornet One, an F/A-18A all-weather fighter and attack aircraft – used in many China Lake military ceremonies is first in line. It can still be towed out of the park when needed.
In addition, Price?s team towed in from their workspace at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine (VX-9) a TA4F Skyhawk, an A-6E TRAM Intruder and an A7-E Corsair.
?I can?t say enough about how VX-9 help us,? said Price. ?Capt. Wade Tallman (squadron commanding officer) really helped by offering us a workspace and some tools.? Restoration costs were low to no-cost, said Price. It took the volunteers a year to complete this latest group.
Price, who now works as a civilian in the Logistics Competency, said it?s his love of the aircraft and his strong desire to see the base display its heritage that pushed him to work on these projects – from first through completion. ?It took a lot of people to pull this together,? Price said, ?everyone involved did a great job.?
Working with members of the China Lake Museum Foundation, particularly Bob Campbell, and Capt. Mark Storch, NAWS commanding officer, this park became officially a part of the museum on Oct. 15 during a ceremony held in connection with the Shrike 50th anniversary and the dedication of a memorial rock listing the names of those who have died while serving at China Lake.
Barry Lowry, museum director, has said that since the aircraft were delivered to the museum traffic has increased as word gets out to the public.
Future plans call for an F-14A and an RF-4B Phantom to join the Station?s aircraft displays. Price said his team is still negotiating the proper place to display them.
Volunteers from VX-9 who made the aircraft move possible included AM1 Roger Pena, AZ3 Jonathan Edwards, AN Heather Vechnak, AN Britteney Walker, AEAN James Marshall, AN Priscilla Kilgroe and AMAN Ryan Hall.
Site preparation was done by Seabee volunteers, including EO1(SCW) Stanley J. Freshour, EO2(SCW) Cody R. Pauxtis, EOC(SCW) Timothy O. Dziergas, EO1(SCW) Michael B. Shinn and CM1(SCW) John E. Jackson.
Photo by Mike Huntsinger Photo cutline: A team of military and civilian volunteers from China Lake has created a newly established aircraft park at the U.S. Naval Museum of Armament and Technology. On Oct. 14, this team, lead by James Price, towed four aircraft ? an F/A-18A, a TA4F Skyhawk, an A-6E TRAM Intruder and an A-7E Corsair – to their new home after restoration at VX-9.