Retirement Project

Crestwood’s Pasternak offers his skills to repair Skywarrior cockpit

When complete, the exhibit
will go up at Aviation Museum

(July 2017) – When the Aviation Museum of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., obtained the cockpit and partial fuselage of a Douglas Aircraft A3D Skywarrior in July 2016, it was not in very good condition.

Photo provided

Mike Pasternak of Crestwood, Ky., is using his years of experience in retirement to help in a project at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky in Lexington.

“It was near junk,” says Martin Schadler, secretary and member of the museum’s board for the past 15 years. After a 35-year tour of duty, the cockpit had been sitting outside in the elements at the Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla., for a few years. It would require extensive repair before it could be displayed to the public.
Around the same time, Mike Pasternak, 60, of Crestwood, Ky., was looking for volunteer opportunities during his retirement. After 22 years of serving in the U.S. Navy as an aircraft mechanic, flight engineer and maintenance chief, he thought his skills could be put to good use at the Museum of Naval Aviation. The logistics for volunteering in Florida proved to be too demanding, so Pasternak was pleased when he learned that the Aviation Museum of Kentucky was looking for help repairing the Skywarrior cockpit they had acquired. In a stroke of good luck, the museum was specifically in need of a volunteer who had experience repairing naval aircraft.
“It’s a fantastic museum with a great collection, and I’m very happy to be able to volunteer there,” he said. Pasternak was particularly impressed with the effort the museum has made to introduce young people to aviation.

Photo provided

The Skywarrior cockpit is transported to the Aviation Museum of Kentucky at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington.

For the past four months, Pasternak has been working with seven other volunteers to restore the Skywarrior to its previous glory. Thanks to their work, the restoration has been going much faster than expected. The cockpit is expected to be open to the public by the end of next year and will be displayed in a custom-made carrier. Museum guests will be able to sit in the cockpit and get the vantage point of a pilot and bombardier. They will even be able to look down at the hatch in the cockpit floor that served as the emergency exit.
The museum couldn’t be happier with Pasternak’s work, says Schadler.
“He has proved to be invaluable due to his knowledge from his service to our country. The restoration is going well due to his contribution of time and talent. He is preserving history and providing great help to the museum,” Schadler said. “We couldn’t operate without volunteers like Mike.”
The museum opened in 1995 and boasts a 25,000-square-foot indoor exhibit area as well as several military and general aviation aircraft in its outside exhibit area. It is also home to the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame. It is located at 4029 Airport Rd., adjacent to the Blue Grass Airport.

Photo provided

Following World War II, the Navy developed a series of heavy attack aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons and operating aboard aircraft carriers. Among these was the A3D Skywarrior, also known as the "Whale." Serving during the height of the Cold War, the A3D was eventually modified to serve in a number of additional support roles, the EA-3B being an electronic countermeasures variant.
This particular Skywarrior, the last flyable EA-3B, served with Raytheon as a testbed following its Navy career, and was delivered to the Museum in June 2011.

In addition to its permanent collection of aircraft, the museum periodically hosts touring exhibits. On July 5-9 it will be hosting the only touring B-29 bomber in the world. This is the same type of plane as the ones that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan to end World War II in the Pacific. Guests will be able to tour the plane and even ride in it, as well as a World War II-era T-6 trainer, a Stearman biplane and C-45 light transport plane.
The A3D Skywarrior represents an important historical addition to the museum’s collection. The model, known affectionately as the “Whale” due to its size, entered service in 1956. It was one of the largest jet-powered planes ever launched in U.S. Navy carrier air operations. The entire plane has a wingspan of more than 72 feet and a length exceeding 76 feet, which is the reason the museum opted to display only the front section of it.
The Skywarrior had multiple missions in the Vietnam War, flying as a bomber, aerial refueler, VIP transport, electronic warfare aircraft, photo-reconnaissance platform, trainer and COD (carrier on-board delivery). It was retired in the early 1990s after the first Gulf War.
Pasternak spent much of his time in the Navy servicing P-3 Orion patrol planes, which were used for maritime surveillance and anti-submarine missions. Although he was never directly responsible for the maintenance or repair of Skywarriors during his time in the Navy, he says that this hasn’t gotten in the way of his work at the museum.
When it comes to repairs, he says, “Airplanes are airplanes.”

• For more information, call the Aviation Museum of Kentucky at (859) 231-1219 or visit: www.aviationky.org.

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