JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The Southeast Asia Airpark at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland has been relocated to the area north of the Parade Ground Airpark to accommodate the construction of two new Airman Training Complexes and a drainage area for rainwater runoff.
“The drainage was going to impede on where aircraft were sitting previously,” said Bill Manchester, Airman Heritage Training Complex director, who provided professional oversight for the location transfer.
Additionally, the previous location did not have nearby parking, and once parking was secured, it was a long walk for older retirees to visit the planes. Many of the aircraft located in the park would have been at military bases in Laos and Cambodia, where former service members may have been stationed, or they may have been flown in international conflicts in locations like Vietnam or Korea.
“Our Vietnam veterans are getting up in age, and they want to come back and see those aircraft, but it was really inconvenient,” Manchester said. “Now, if you want to visit the B-17 bomber from World War II and the B-52 bomber from Vietnam, and so on, you can just park in one place and walk one way or the other. It's really more convenient.”
The relocation of the aircraft was completed June 5 with the movement of the B-52 to the new Southeast Asia Airpark location. That move required the wings to be removed from the aircraft in order for it to fit on JBSA-Lackland roadways.
The movements of the other aircraft were conducted on different dates. In early January, the T-37 and UH-1 were moved to the Inter-American Air Force Academy campus.
“A decision was made to move those aircraft that had relevance to international training to IAAFA,” Manchester said. “It gives the IAAFA students some history and heritage.”
The F-4, F-5 and F-100 were moved to the new airpark location in early March, while the B-57, B-66, and F-105 were moved to the new location in April.
The aircraft sit in a horseshoe formation at their new location, perfectly suited to that number of planes, Manchester said.
“It is very rare that we get to witness the movement of this many large, historic aircraft,” he said. “Their new location will allow more visitors to enjoy these great planes.”
Coordination between all parties was important in order to ensure the structural integrity of the Static Display Aerospace Vehicles, or SDAVs, as they were moved.
The Airman Heritage Training Complex staff members provided details for load-bearing structures and technical orders for each aircraft, which allowed the contractors to determine the best possible way to move them.
While all the aircraft are moved to the new location, there is still work to be completed before the park will be open to visitors. The wings and tailpieces must still be reassembled before the relocation is considered complete.
In addition, there are blades that must be tightened and painting that has to be completed, all in historically accurate and practical ways which take into account weathering of the planes’ exteriors. Sidewalks are also being built to make the site more accessible to those who want to explore the exhibit.
“We are all stewards of the Air Force’s historical collection,” Manchester said. "My job is to show and educate Airmen and the public on the history and heritage of our Air Force."