Freeport, Illinois — There are a lot of memories that the city of Freeport holds. All of the obvious ones such as places from a time ago, to a never ending plethora of personal stories that often get lost throughout time.
One of the coolest places in Freeport is the Albertus Airport. In operation since 1945 the airport holds many personal memories over its nearly 7 decade existence.
One of the most noticeable traits of Freeport’s airport today is the two-seat, twin-engined supersonic jet that sits just outside the gate. The plane is the Northrop T-38 Talon and was the world’s first supersonic jet trainer. The plane was assembled at Northrop Corporation in Hawthorne, California.
While for those who grew up with this plane gracing our Freeport airport, others have a different memory of her. Others such as young airman David Cox.
David was the crew chief on Triple Nickel at Randolph AFB, TX from 1965-1967. As a young airman just out of aircraft maintenance tech school, he recalls the feeling of how much greater could life be, but to be in charge of a jet fighter trainer. “I knew every screw, door, panel, and system on her”, he remarked on a photo of the 555 shared by John Meneely in 2013.
“She was a jinx to pilots, always came back with something broken/not working. She hadn’t been taken care of, so here I was, just turned 18, farm boy from West Virginia, and I was told to get her in shape.”
Cox went on to say, “she also received a new paint job for which she was wiped and waxed after each flight”.
At the time, the Air Force wanted an official T-38 photo. According to Cox, they checked the Air Training Command bases and selected his Triple Nickel. He says he didn’t get a blue ribbon as he did in 4-H club then, but his chest was still puffed out with pride.
Then David’s squadron wanted someone to become a run-up tech to check out the planes after engine, flight control, and brake changes. David was selected because of his duty to 555. He recalls, “there I was, only a 2-striper at the time and starting the engines, taxiing to the run-up pad and checking all systems”.
“Photos at this airport is the first I’ve seen of her since 1967, and provided to me by John Veer and his brother Sam, Cox said of John Meneely‘s photo 3 short years ago.
“With strong humility, I can’t thank these guys enough”, he added. “This aircraft, next to my family, is about the most important thing in my life and never forgot her”.
David concluded, “I will be making a trip to Illinois…Seeing ya soon ol’ lady!”.
The plane is owned by the National Museum of the USAF and is on loan to the city of Freeport.