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Flight museum needs $35,000 more for “Sweet Little Miss”

August 20, 2018

The Museum of Flight at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport in Rome needs another $35,000 to bring home the body of “Sweet Little Miss.”

It’s actually the fuselage of the F-14 Tomcat, to go with the nose, tail and wings that are already here. The local museum has been transporting the donated fighter plane, piece by piece, from the Virginia Aviation Museum in Richmond.

Christine Lewis, director of the Museum of Flight, said F-14s were de-commissioned, replaced by the F-18 Hornet, and all but a few have been scrapped. “Sweet Little Miss” was the last one to land on an aircraft carrier — the USS Theodore Roosevelt, on July 28, 2006.

“She also was on the ship when President (George W.) Bush did his ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech,” Lewis said, referencing an address from the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.

The supersonic aircraft — the same type flown in the movie “Top Gun” — is slated to be reassembled and displayed at the museum. Rome-based Scott Logistics is helping the nonprofit connect with a Virginia trucking company to deliver the fuselage, but fees are still estimated at $40,000.

“It’s considered a superload,” Lewis said. “They have to arrange the escorting, the routing, the permitting through three states: Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia.”

Each state’s Department of Transportation must sign off on the plan to transport the load, which may be too heavy or wide for some roads. Bridges also must be figured in advance, for the weight limit and the height.

A GoFundMe page has raised just under $3,500, with $380 in small donations coming in just the last week. The push is on now, because Lewis expects transportation arrangements to be complete in Sep-tember.

“We’ve also set up sponsorship levels on our Facebook page,” she said. “Once we get the fuselage, we want to have a Champagne and hors d’oeuvres after-party and it’s kind of based on that.”

Members get an invitation to the F-14 Recovery Private Party with a $50 donation toward the plane. Annual memberships run $20 for an individual, $30 for a family of up to four people, and there are higher levels available.

A $250 donation for “Sweet Little Miss” gets your name or company logo in the gala program. For $500, you also get a plaque and $1,000 gets you both of those, plus an invitation to the party.

Established in 2010, the Museum of Flight is still growing, Lewis said. In addition to a collection of historic flight and military memorabilia, it has several planes restored to fly, a M38A-1 Jeep and a tug. Among the planes housed in the hangar and on the grounds are a 1943 BTD-1 De-stroyer, a T-28 Trojan Alpha Model, a 1984 Glasair pre-molded compo-site kitplane and a Beechcraft C-45.

Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sun-days from 1 to 4 p.m.

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