Historic Air Force jet leaving the Wilmington area

For 58 years, the Air Force T-33A training jet has been at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2573 on Carolina Beach Road.
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 8:51 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A Wilmington landmark is being dismantled to be moved to the American Legion Post 433 in Midland, NC.

For 58 years, the Air Force T-33A training jet has been at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2573 on Carolina Beach Road.

VFW Post 2573 closed its doors nearly a year ago due to damage from Hurricane Florence, but the Air Force jet still held its ground until now.

The jet has been moved throughout Wilmington since 1965 and is bringing back memories for many. Most residents in the area have likely seen it in front of the old VFW post on Carolina Beach Road for nearly half a decade, while others remember its years before being transferred to the post.

Originally, the jet was part of an air show in Wilmington, but the engine failed to work. After sitting at the airport for years, it was transferred to Greenfield Lake in 1965 where people were able to play and climb on it.

In 1975, members of the VFW volunteered to haul the 8,000-pound plane two miles down the street. A member who accepted the challenge says it was quite the spectacle.

“It was probably eight or ten fellow members here at the VFW and two or three police cars, pickup trucks, flashing lights blinking and it was quite an entourage,” said Charlie Copelan, Veteran of Foreign Wars member.

Copelan said that it took about two hours to haul the plane down the road from Greenfield Lake to the VFW Post, but they were grateful that they had a police presence helping them make the move safer.

Some of the older memories have stuck with Wilmington residents, especially Scott Wallace, commander of the old VFW post. He not only played on the jet as a kid but was surprised and relieved to see that it was still there when he got back from the Navy, this time in front of his place of work.

“Earliest memories are from Greenfield Lake when it was sitting over there way back in the day when you could climb on stuff and nobody really cared. It didn’t even have a canopy on it. I remember crawling down in the nose of that thing, coming out all scraped up and running around,” said Wallace.

The jet was supposed to be dismantled and on its way to Midland by Monday, Feb. 20, but there was a slight setback and should be on the move in the coming days.