Here’s something interesting from the ‘Norfolk Virginian-Pilot’:
Confederates in Bid for Aircraft Carrier
In a surprise move, a group of aviation enthusiasts calling themselves the Confederate Air Force (CAF) has announced that they are submitting a bid to buy the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal when it is officially retired from Navy service at the end of this year.
The Midland, Texas, based organization operates a large fleet of restored World War Two vintage fighter and bomber aircraft for display at airshows around the country. The organization takes it’s role of educating people about the war years very seriously, but the move towards jet-era aviation is thought to be a new departure.
The 54 years old USS Forrestal (CV-59) is currently used to train young naval aviators for carrier deck landings at sea, and will soon be surplus to requirements as the Navy continues to down-size. It had been expected that the ship would be offered to one of the South American navies. Both Argentina and Brazil operate ageing aircraft carriers that need replacing. The Department of Defense has confirmed that a serious CAF bid for the carrier has been submitted.
The group has initial funding thanks to a substantial endowment from a former naval aviator, and is currently negotiating sponsorship deals with a number of large corporations. The Tailhook Association and the Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola have also been invited to participate in the project.
The Confederates intend to maintain the carrier in fully working condition, as a living museum and a tribute to the Navy servicemen and women of the Cold War era. “This will be a fully active ship, unlike the USS Intrepid in New York, which is just a floating display cabinet,” said CAF spokesperson Kay Rendall. “It will be crewed by volunteers and retired ex-mariners. We plan to operate cruises all along the eastern and western seaboard of the States and over-winter in Norfolk, Virginia,” says Rendall. “The carrier will put into port when possible, to allow the public to tour the ship.”
According to the CAF, the ship will be restored to its full 1967 Vietnam War configuration as far as possible, and will include a fully representative carrier air group ranged on deck and in the hangars. Suitable F-4 fighters and A-4, A-6 and A-7 bombers are still being held at a vast government storage facility in the Arizona desert. Most of these aircraft will be non-flying, but it is hoped that one example of each type will be eventually restored to flying condition, to operate in authentic markings from the carrier. In connection with this, it is reported that a Florida-based syndicate is currently negotiating to buy an F-8 Crusader fighter plane from the French Navy, which retired theirs last year.
“On special occasions, paying visitors will be ferried out to the carrier by boat or helicopter and invited to experience a range of naval aviation demonstrations not normally open to the general public,” explains Rendall. “The climax of the visit would be a spectacular series of catapult launches and arrested landings of naval aircraft. The drama and awesome power of modern naval aviation will be made accessible to the public for the first time, in a unique way.”
“Obviously, several modifications will be required to make the ship suitable for civilian visitors. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we expect to be able to welcome the first visitors on April Fools day, 2003.”