Covert Agency Wants Its A-12 Back
The Minnesota Air National Guard Museum has called upon its
representatives in Congress to stop a plan by the US Air Force to
commandeer the museum's A-12 Blackbird spyplane, to display outside
the Virginia headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.
"They want to see this airplane on a stick in front of their
headquarters," said Mark Ness, a retired brigadier general and
former commander of the Minnesota ANG.
According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, the
nonprofit museum restored the A-12 -- forerunner to the SR-71
-- after rescuing it from a Palmdale, CA scrap yard in 1990. Only a
handful of A-12s are still in existence: one is located in
Birmingham, AL, and another is in California.
Representatives with the Minnesota museum believe the USAF
should look at Birmingham's Blackbird instead, noting it was the
first A-12 to fly a CIA mission over North Vietnam in
1967. That plane was also the last A-12 to fly, when it
was retired in 1968.
However, Air Force Programs and Legislative Division deputy
chief Lt. Col. Michael Fleck, says Minnesota's Blackbird is the
best one for display outside Langley -- and noted the Minnesota Air
Guard's 133rd Airlift Wing has no historical connection to the
plane, just a sentimental one.
Because the A-12 program originated within the CIA, Fleck says
"it is most appropriate that one of the few remaining examples be
allocated to them for memorialization."
Ness acknowledges the Minnesota ANG didn't have a direct role in
the A-12's development or history... but notes Minnesota companies
such as Honeywell's Avionics Division, 3M, and Rosemount Inc.
played critical roles in the Blackbird's creation. Perhaps more
importantly, four of the earliest A-12 pilots got their
starts in the Minnesota Air National Guard members.
Museum volunteers spent 3,500 hours restoring the plane, in an
effort funded by donations from local corporation and individual
enthusiasts. Dayton Hudson -- later Target Corp. -- even produced a
short documentary on the project. Today, Minnesota Air Guard Museum
officials say the Blackbird is by far the biggest draw in the
museum's 27-plane collection.
The museum is attempting to relocate off the grounds of the
Minnesota Air National Guard base, to a more hospitable site near
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Heightened security on the base in the aftermath of 9/11 has
restricted traffic to the museum, officials said.