Atmore landmark finds new home
By by Brian Giles
After almost 50 years, an Atmore landmark is retired to an Air Force Museum in New York state. The Lockheed T-33 Air Force training jet, located in front of the Atmore City hall, next to the railroad tracks, on Friday began its final journey. The journey will take the retired jet to Sampson Air Force Base in New York. The base is about 60 miles west of Syracuse, New York, in the Finger Lakes region. The plane was donated by the city to a 2,500-member group of veterans that took their basic training at Sampson. The Sampson group will restore the aircraft and locate it outside of the newly opened Military Museum in Sampson State Park, New York.
The airplane was deteriorating from years of weather exposure. "We could no longer maintain the aging plane," said Atmore Mayor Howard Shell, "We wanted to see it preserved in a dignified way."
Roy Gibbs, of Atmore, was on hand to give a history of the airplane. Gibbs' brother-in-law, Billy Crumley, now deceased of Atmore, was the pilot who had trained in the airplane. Crumley was flying the airplane at the time of its last training mission. Crumley radioed to the tower that the landing gear was jammed on the plane and that he would have to make a crash landing. The Air Force foamed the runway in preparation of the crash. Eyewitness accounts say that Crumley made a perfect belly landing and survived the crash. The airplane was retired to the City of Atmore after the crash. It served as a proud piece of history for the past 50 years.
Veterans from the Sampson group disassembled the airplane and will take it back to New York on a flatbed truck.
"We are real excited about finding this plane, we have been waiting about eight years to find this type of plane," said Tom Little coordinator of the Sampson Veterans group. "After the restoration we will proudly display the aircraft outside the main doors of the museum," said Little.
Little was accompanied by four fellow veterans who made the trip to disassemble the plane; Lynn Brown, Jim Docksetter, Lucky Sandifur, and Dave Benson.
On hand to represent the city was Shell, Councilman John Garrard, Roy Gibbs, Curtis Harris, Lee Martin, and Joel Day.