IF YOU GO
• What: 63rd annual Chattanooga Armed Forces Day Parade
• When: 10:30-11:15 a.m.
• Where: Begins at Market Street and M.L. King Boulevard, travels toward the Tennessee River on Market Street, passing the reviewing stand at the Hamilton County-Chattanooga Courts Building
As locals gather on the ground for floats, bands and speeches in downtown Chattanooga for the 63rd annual Armed Forces Day parade today, they may hear a rumble about 1,000 feet overhead.
That'll be Pete O'Hare flying a North American T-28A propeller warplane, an aircraft that flew missions in Vietnam and Honduras. O'Hare's a soon-to-retire U.S. Marine Corps Reserve pilot who's flying the plane for the Hixson Museum of Flight, the machine's home.
After burning 160 gallons of fuel to take off at the Dallas Bay Skypark, the 6,424-pound plane will be over downtown in about two minutes, said Jody Whitmire, the museum's director of operations.
Flight logs and other records show the plane was used on missions in Vietnam and sold to the Honduran Air Force, where it was flown in the 100-hour "Soccer War" in 1969, one of the last propeller-plane driven air battles, before being scrapped and sold to a U.S. civilian in 1985.
The plane sat disassembled in a hangar for nearly 25 years before O'Hare, Whitmire and some of the museum's 135 members volunteered 15,000 hours to its refurbishment, O'Hare said.
This is the first Armed Forces Day flyover by museum staff since the organization opened its doors in 2010. Whitmire and O'Hare said the museum mission is to raise money for the local Children's Hospital -- $15,000 so far -- and spread aviation awareness.
"The real purpose of an aircraft is to be in the air," O'Hare said. "You've got to make sure you give people the opportunity ... [to see] them in the air, capture the interest."
The actual date for Armed Forces Day is the third Saturday in May, but in Chattanooga the parade is held earlier to allow school participation, said Tennessee Air National Guard Maj. Marty Malone, who works closely with parade organizers as head of the local 241st Engineering Installation Squadron.
The parade honors a different military branch each year, this year it's the U.S. Air Force. Brig. Gen. Richard W. Scobee is the acting grand marshal and guest speaker at the luncheon following the parade.