Fairey Gannet: Restored airplane gets rave reviews
The XT-752 was the center of attention at Saturday evening's unveiling ceremony at New Richmond Regional Airport.
The historic British war plane, nicknamed the "Fairey Gannet," has been fully restored over the past two years and is inching closer to its first actual flight since 2004.
Airplane owner Shannan Hendricks and restoration coordinator Harry Odone were all smiles when the hangar doors were open and the crowd streamed in for their first look at the Fairey Gannet.
"It's like a fairy tale really," Odone said in his British accent. "I'm over the moon with it."
He said the enthusiasm shown by onlookers is reward enough for the months of work he's put into the project.
"That alone makes it worthwhile," he said.
Hendricks shared Odone's assessment of the success of the unveiling.
"We're excited to share this with everybody," she said.
She noted that the Fairey Gannet's first flight in nearly 10 years will occur in the next few weeks. She said the public will be invited once a day is set.
Beyond the upcoming flight, Odone said even bigger things are ahead for the airplane. Hendricks and Odone hope to open a museum at the local airport, with the XT-752 being the facility's centerpiece. "We have a lot yet on the horizon," he said.
In a brief presentation during the evening, Odone thanked all of the supporters, sponsors and friends who helped with the restoration process.
He said most of the volunteer help came from local people who have an interest in airplanes and history.
"It's been quite a journey," he said. "And now you can see that XT-752 is a very special airplane and deserves to be looked after. We're going to do the best for her in the future."
Odone singled out Ray Smith, 86, who spent many hours helping with the project.
"He's come up twice a week religiously for two years and put a lot of heart and soul into the airplane," Odone said. Others on the team that were recognized were Kirk Hexum, Ron Stoner, Mason Odone, Jason Rogers, Tom Peterson and Nick Jilek.
The Fairey Gannet XT-752, built in the United Kingdom in 1954, is one of only eight that were manufactured by the British Navy. The XT-752's original job was to hunt Russian submarines during the Cold War.
After the Fairey Gannet was taken out of military service, the plane ended up in the United States. It eventually found a permanent home in New Richmond about two years ago.