F-117 Nighthawk ‘Shaba’ arrives for display at Air Zoo in Michigan
PORTAGE, MI – After a 2,600 mile long travel trip from Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, the ‘Shaba’ fuselage arrived at the Air Zoo to a crowd of excited spectators.
Shaba, the nickname of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, is the first operational F-117 to be shown to the public in a non-governmental museum.
The plane’s wings arrived in Portage on Monday, but the fuselage, being an oversized load, arrived on Friday, December 11, 10 days after leaving Nevada. People have followed Shaba’s journey through the Facebook page ‘Get Shaba’, detailing the trip across the United States.
Once the fuselage arrived, it was supported by a crane as members of the Tonopah Test Range released the landing gear and installed the tires. A tractor then pulled the fuselage into the museum, where crews worked to reinstall the wings and tail fins.
Two and a half years ago, Air Zoo CEO and Chairman Troy Thrash first learned that the Air Force would be releasing four F-117 Stealth Fighters per year in museums across the country. “On their way to Tonopah, they (the US Air Force) were very gracious in helping to figure out what it took to restore this plane,” Thrash said.
“It’s not that beautiful, sleek, and black Stealth Fighter that you remember, but actually we have a lot of work to do on it,” Thrash said.
The aircraft’s leading edges were removed as they contained top-secret technology that helped scatter the radar so that no one could follow the aircraft. The black radar-absorbing paint, which is also top-secret, was sandblasted during the demilitarization process.
The public will be able to view the F-117 as it is being restored in the exhibit hall of the Air Zoo Flight Discovery Center. The main restoration works are the leading edges and the black paint of the aircraft. Guests will be able to speak with members of the 75-person catering team and hear stories about the aircraft.
“We chose tail number 817 because of its remarkable fighting history,” Thrash said of Shaba. It is one of five F-117s, of the 59 operational ones that have been built and which have flown more than 5,000 hours. Shaba has also been on more than 75 sorties and has flown in three of the four major campaigns they have been used. He has flown in Desert Storm, Just Cause and Iraqi Freedom.
The name ‘Shaba’ is an Arabic word for ‘ghost’, radar technology couldn’t find these planes so they could fly to and over targets and drop their payloads before anyone else stepped down. ‘make it, according to Thrasher.
The US Air Force withdrew the F-117s in April 2008.
The Air Zoo, which last year celebrated 40 years in the community, is located at 6151 Portage Road in Portage, near the Kalamazoo / Battle Creek International Airport.
Unique aviation exhibits include an SR-71B Blackbird stealth aircraft, the only surviving example of the aircraft, as well as the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an F-18, and the F-14 Tomcat.
More information, including times and details on COVID-19 precautions, can be found on the Air Zoo website.
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