James Clemens High School may soon acquire a real military jet as a salute to its “Jets” nickname.
The Madison City Board of Education approved an agreement to receive the TF-9J aircraft from the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum of Pensacola. The plane is currently in a surplus lot outside the Veterans Museum in Huntsville.
Plans are to refurbish it for static display in front of the school. The TF-9J (Cougar) jet flew in missions around the Korean Conflict period and was also as part of the Navy’s elite demonstration flying team, The Blue Angels.
School officials, led by James Clemens JROTC leader Col. Courtney Taylor, negotiated a transfer of the aircraft to James Clemens at no charge on essentially a permanent loan basis. Efforts to acquire a military jet began when James Clemens was being built and Jets was selected as its moniker.
The only cost to the Madison Board of Education will be insuring the aircraft against damages as required in the agreement. The expense of relocating, refurbishing, painting and affixing the plane on a mounting pole will be borne by donations and fund raisers, Col. Taylor said.
Col. Taylor told the board the acquisition agreement in such a short time frame is remarkable given that a school just south of Montgomery known as the “Flying Squadrons” was on a waiting list for 41 years. The fact the aircraft was already at Huntsville’s Veterans Museum and the area’s strong military connections were likely a factor.
The jet will be displayed in the roundabout at the main entrance to the school. Pending Navy approval, plans call for using the Blue Angels paint scheme or a semblance thereof to match somewhat the blue color of the school. Completion of the project will depend on the pace of donations. A local company has agreed to donate free use of its hangar for the restoration and display site preparation.
The nickname of other Madison City Schools is as follows: Bob Jones Patriots, Columbia Astros, Discovery Panthers, Heritage Rams, Horizon Eagles, Liberty Lions, Madison Hornets, Mill Creek Mavericks, Rainbow Rockets, West Madison Wildcats.