MILLINGTON, Tenn. — A Memphis auto body repair and refinishing shop is helping to restore a historic Blue Angels jet to proper glory.
James Jones, owner of Visual Perfection auto body repair and refinishing, said the project started out as a regular job for him — until veterans began stopping by to thank them.
“They would tell us their story of being a vet and being overseas and seeing these planes fly in real life,” Jones said.
That’s when he knew they were working on something special.
The 60-year-old Grumman F-11f longnose Tiger jet was a familiar sight on Navy Road at the former Millington Naval Air base for decades, but was in need of repair after years on display.
The Navy wanted to bring the former training plane back to their Pensacola base because it had been worn down by the elements, said Roy Remington, executive director of the Millington Airport Authority.
The airport just couldn’t let that happen, so Remington said they took over the lease.
In order to display the aircraft in a respectful manner, Remington said the airport decided to have it refinished.
Jones said his job began after the Millington Airport Authority came to him with a proposition.
“One day they asked us if we’d be interested in painting an airplane, and we kinda laughed at them, and they said, ‘No, seriously,'” Jones said. “So, that’s how it ended up here.”
But Jones normally refurbishes cars, so he had to do a bit of research.
After talking to the Navy base in Pensacola, they discovered they’d have to disassemble the plane to get the job done.
They chemically stripped it, applied the primer, added a black sealer and painted on the famous blue and gold.
Saturday at 8 a.m., Jones will tow the plane along with a police and the Patriot Guard escort from his shop on Elmore Road to the Millington-Memphis Airport.
The plane will arrive around 10:30 at the Millington-Memphis Airport, where there will be a small ceremony, cockpit tours and photo opportunities.
“For us, it is a gift we can give back to the community that has given back to us,” Remington said.