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Endurance plane still homeless
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For over a decade, Ron Spencer and other dedicated Yuma residents have been trying to find a permanent home to display the City of Yuma endurance flight plane, but to no avail.
“We are 14 years down the road and we still haven't got it a home,” said Spencer, chairman of the Endurance Flight Committee. “We thought finding a home for it would be the easiest thing, but it's become the hardest thing to get this plane hung in Yuma.”
In 1997, the Yuma Jaycees Foundation purchased the original plane from a farmer in Staples, Minn., for $18,000 and returned it to Yuma.
“Over the 50 years since the flight, there have been around 25 to 30 different owners,” Spencer said. “The farmer we purchased it from was putting pontoons on it in the summer to land on water and skis on it in the winter to land on snow. We thought it was important to bring the plane (home) and hang it in a museum-type atmosphere.”
After spending two and half years restoring the plane to its original form in time for the 50th anniversary of the flight, the Jaycees donated the plane to the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area in 2005 so it could be displayed in the new visitors center.
“The plan was to hang it at the new center. The design of the building was built around having the airplane hang in it,” Spencer said. “But when the economy plummeted, budget cuts eliminated the new visitors center.”
The plane has been sitting in a local storage unit collecting dust for the past several years, Spencer said.
Finally in August 2010, the city council approved a measure to display the historic airplane in the lobby of City Hall.
To display the plane above the north entrance, a special steel structure will have to be erected to support the front, and changes will have to be made to the mezzanine glass handrails to accommodate the rear.
After accounting for all the modifications and materials required, Spencer estimates the cost will be between $18,000 and $20,000 to hang the plane, provided most of the labor and support equipment is donated.
“We don't want to take money out of taxpayers' pockets. We want private donations to fund this.”
The Endurance Flight Committee decided to create an 1124 Sponsor Club, named after the number of hours the plane flew to break the endurance record, to help raise funds.
“If somebody donates $1,124 or more, we will put their name on a sponsor board that will be displayed with the airplane,” Spencer said. “And they will receive a nice sponsor plaque to put in their home or office. Of course, we would appreciate donations of any amount as well.”
Currently, the committee has raised approximately $5,000, mostly through a letter-writing campaign.
Spencer said any money received in excess of the costs to install the plane will be placed toward the annual maintenance and cleaning costs.