Seeing an F-15 going down Highway 32, isn't something you see every day. And for those at the Chico Air Museum, it has been a long awaited arrival. After nearly a year's worth of planning and three thousand miles cross country. The F-15 Freedom Eagle arrived in Chico Sunday morning. Chico Air Museum Board Member Noel Wheeler says, "It's taken us eight months from the time we first spotted it to bringing it here."
The aircraft began its journey last Monday from the Langley Air Force base in Virginia. Where it took two trailers to haul the 31,000 pound plane across eight states.. Making this the furthest distance a military aircraft this size has ever been moved by a museum. And board members say it was absolutely worth the wait. "There are a lot of air museums that would love to have this. We're a small museum and we have this. It's incredible," Wheeler says.
The Eagle, one of 482 ever built, once flew at a speed of 1,875 miles per hour. It took its first flight in 1972, and later was used as a fighter plane in the Gulf War. And the first of its kind, to join the eight other aircrafts, in the museum's collection. Chico Resident Dan Fregin says,"I've seen them at the air shows and stuff like that, but never get to see what the inside of one looks like."
Nearly 100 aviation fans showed up to greet the Eagle, which was well received by all. David Lawrence from Oroville says, "That is spectacular to have a piece of equipment here in the Chico area." Chico resident Sarah Blakley says, "The Chico Air Museum is already great, but what a cool thing to add to it."
And, on top of the fighter jet attracting a lot of attention at the Chico Airport because of its size, it also represents an important message. "This is going to be a tribute to our current and former veterans and it will always remain that way," says Wheeler.
There will be a special ceremony presenting the Freedom Eagle to the community sometime in mid September.