After a four-month restoration, the F9-F6 Grumman Cougar aircraft has returned to the entrance of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. The aircraft was lifted by crane last week to its mounting post and the installation was mostly completed before noon Friday.
After a difficult removal from its rotating post in September, the aircraft had been in Park Rapids for restoration. When the aircraft left Brainerd in September, airport officials said it was in pretty rough shape, with many areas of corrosion and damaged metal. Arriving back in Brainerd on Jan. 10, the airplane looks like new, officials said. While maintaining a historically accurate Marine paint scheme, the airport commission selected a lighter gray scheme in place of the old Marine blue color. This lighter paint scheme should keep the aircraft looking better with less ongoing maintenance. As before, two area Cougar pilots, Lt. R. Ryan and Lt. D. Bode are depicted as pilots on the airplane.
Restoring the aircraft has been a priority since nearly losing the privilege of displaying it several years ago. After repeated unsuccessful attempts at procuring grants for the restoration, two area businesses stepped forward to finance the effort. Adding to that donated crane service, donated transportation services, and the willingness of the restoration shop to contribute, the project went full speed ahead. The entire effort was funded with private donations and services.
This project was made possible by the following companies: Dondelinger Automotive and Deerwood Bank providing primary financial support and Rardin Construction providing crane services. Spalj Construction provided transportation services to and from Park Rapids, and Korby Construction provided rigging equipment for the lift. Park Rapids Aviation stepped up to help absorb some cost overages on the project.
The crew that worked on lifting the aircraft up to its rotating post included Rob Adair, Andy Dunlap, Dean Johnson, Dave Ahlers, Mike Petersen and Rick Adair.
Airport officials thanked these companies and the numerous individuals that contributed to the success of this restoration and invited everyone to stop by and see the aircraft.