Vets Make Sure Marine Can 'Semper Fly'

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2007 - When employees at the Wings and Rotors Museum in Murrieta, Calif., noticed the 1965 Cessna Skyhawk sitting on the tarmac, it had seen better days.

"After many inquiries, we found that this aircraft belonged to career Marine (Master) Gunnery Sergeant Mike Tyndale, who had been in the combat zone in Iraq," David Barron, a U.S. Army Air Cavalry veteran and volunteer at the museum, said. "The cabin leaked and the sun had damaged the aircraft as it sat. The birds had made a home of it."

Barron and other veterans associated with the Wings and Rotors Museum created a project to bring the plane back to life -- an endeavor estimated at $7,000. The museum started a project, "Operation Semper Fly," to handle the restoration of the Cessna.

The operation's name plays off the Marine Corps motto, "Semper Fidelis," which means "Always Faithful" and often is shortened to "Semper Fi."

The work needed was extensive. Museum staff and volunteers worked on the airframe and propeller, installed new brakes and replaced the plane's tires. It also has a fresh battery as well as engine maintenance and inspections.

"We have moved into the cabin restoration and finally will finish it all off with new exterior paint with the Marine Corps colors as an accent," Barron said. "This is being done at no cost to him as a token of our support for all of our veterans. As veterans ourselves, we could no just turn our back on him."

Materials needed to bring the Cessna back to its former glory have been donated by local suppliers in amounts greater than the estimated repair costs, he said. In fact, a flight instructor has donated his time to fly with Tyndale to get the Marine current on his flight requirements and help get him through his biennial flight review.

"I am proud to say that the aviation community has embraced our efforts to bring this aircraft back to life," Barron said. "The aircraft will be returned to ... Tyndale on June 9 at the French Valley Airport's 'Air Faire.'"

The Air Faire event is an annual open house at the airport featuring static military and civilian displays and a community safety fair.

Tyndale, who has served 26 years in the Marine Corps, knew his "cherished" aircraft had suffered from his nearly three-year absence. He said he is thrilled that it's nearly ready to soar into the wild blue again, and incredibly grateful to those who made that possible.

"I have a lump in my throat trying to express my gratitude at this undertaking," he said. "There is no greater sense of community support for military members ... than to come home and be told 'thanks" and get the hearty handshakes.

"However the Wings and Rotors Air Museum has done more than that," Tyndale continued. "Thanks to their members, my plane will recover from my long absence and will fly again."

Editor's Note: To find out about more individuals, groups and organizations that are helping support the troops, visit America Supports You directly connects military members to the support of the America people and offers a tool to the general public in their quest to find meaningful ways to support the military community.

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