Russellville Astronaut Visits Bowling Green for Unveiling of NASA's T-38

By Kristin Martin | 

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- A unique piece of aviation history was unveiled Saturday evening in Bowling Green.

Dozens gathered at a hangar party to celebrate aviation and wait for the unveiling of the fifth and newest addition to the Aviation Heritage Park.

"I have to admit I stopped by earlier today and took a peek at it. It looks like it's ready to fly again," said Terry Wilcutt, an astronaut from Russellville and WKU graduate.

NASA's 1966 T-38 airplane came to town in March.

Since then, it's been restored for display.

"Straightforward restoration process of washing the aircraft, degreasing it, sanding it down and doing the priming and painting," said Jim Wright, the president of Aviation Heritage Park.

So why was this plane desired? Its history.

"It has literally been flown by every Mercury astronaut, every Gemini, every Apollo astronaut. It has been flown by every person who walked on the moon," Wright said.

One of those astronauts is Wilcutt.

He has made four flights on the space shuttle, and flown the T-38 many times.

"It's a fun jet to fly. You cruise around at .9 MOC. Any astronaut that flew it knows we use it for space shuttle training. Of course, the space shuttle's been gone now, but you can't help but remember all the practice shuttle landings that you did," Wilcutt said.

He said aviation is important to the U.S. and it's equally important to educate kids about it.

"If you can plant the dream by having them come out and look at those airplanes and know that local people from this community flew those and flew them successfully, hopefully they'll realize that they can do that too," Wilcutt said.

Adding this aircraft to the park will be one of those examples.

"Just a phenomenal piece of history that people can literally walk up to and touch and really connect with people who have done some tremendous and amazing things for this country," Wright said.

He said the plane will move to the park in October.

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