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Airport plane needs lift assist

The Marine plane, the F9F6 Cougar, at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport has a distinctive characteristic. 

It rotates on its pylon in the wind. 

Now, before efforts can go into refurbishing it, Airport Manager Steve Sievek said a remaining hurdle is lifting the  plane off its pylon. After the airport commission discussion in May was published of whether to remove the plane if funds weren’t available to paint it, the public responded with many offers. 

“There has been a lot of interest with donations in terms of time and materials,” said Airport Manager Steve Sievek. 

Four different vendors are willing to supply paint, which may be 200 gallons, including primer and  finish coats. Sievek said more information on next steps should be available next week. 

Sievek said the public interest and donations have been. A couple of years ago, as the paint on the plane deteriorated, the airport commission began seeking options to pay to refurbish it. They applied for grants, but were unsuccessful. Some donations came in, but in small amounts. 

Now the largest remaining obstacle is the plane itself. 

The plane weighs about 6,000 pounds. Lifting it off its display column is considered the best option to repaint it by getting it inside a body shop for the work. 

And the plane needs to be soda blasted first. 

In February of 1981, the vintage jet fighter airplane arrived at the airport for display at its entrance off Highway 210. The plane is officially on loan to the airport from the U.S. Navy. 

The plane was moved off the highway and closer to the airport terminal after road construction work in the early 1990s. Because a wing of the plane extended over the ditch and road right of way when the plane rotated, the Minnesota Department of Transportation required the airport to move the plane.

Sievek said he isn’t sure why the plane was moved so close to the terminal instead of being placed farther away from the highway as a spot near the entrance seemed a good place for its display. 

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.