A popular East End landmark is due for a facelift, and with a bit of help from the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, the Town of Riverhead will be restoring the Grumman Memorial Park in Calverton to its original splendor.
“The paint on the aircraft has begun to peel—on the nose of the F-14 and on some of the fiberglass wingtips of the other plane,” says Riverhead Town Engineer Ken Testa, who is heading up the project. “Not being in the business of painting planes, we reached out for some help and we got in contact with the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City.”
The Town of Riverhead assumed responsibility for maintaining the park several years ago, as was the original agreement with the park’s creator, East End Aircraft LI Corporation. “The Town entered into an agreement, when the park was developed, that after a certain number of years the maintenance and operation of the site would transfer to the Town of Riverhead,” Testa says. “We maintain the grounds and keep the bricks clean, but as for the planes themselves, we really need some technical assistance.”
The park was built in 2000 and displays the F-14A Tomcat Fighter, Gunfighter 134, high up on a pedestal, as well as an A-6 Intruder. The Tomcat was built and tested at the Grumman Flight Test Facility in Calverton, now the Calverton Executive Park, which is adjacent to the park, and served the United States Air Force from 1979 until 1998.
“We were approached by the town to see if we could put together a group of volunteers,” says Andrew Parton, Executive Director of the Cradle of Aviation Museum. “We have a group of about 100 volunteers who are former aerospace workers from Grumman and Republic and commercial aviation that volunteer at the museum to do restoration work,” he says. “We’re trying to put together a team of volunteers to come out and help restore the aircraft out at the park, and deal with some of the issues of protecting them moving forward.”
“The director of the museum and the head curator came out to look at the planes, and they determined that they needed a good power-washing, and wherever the paint is peeling needs to be scraped and repainted,” Testa says. “They told us they would give us a list of materials and that when we procure them, they would pick a weekend and bring out a team of volunteers that would go about, power-washing, cleaning and repainting the planes.” he says. “The town, of course, quickly accepted their offer.”
“We have a restoration crew here that builds and restores the aircraft for the museum, so that’s the group that we’re going to be tapping from a resource standpoint,” Parton says. “Our curatorial staff is pretty experienced in restoring and maintaining aircraft. We have some planes at the museum that sit outside, so we know what you have to do to make sure you can take care of them and leave them out there.”
The planes were not initially designed to be stored outside in the elements, so special maintenance is required to keep them in good shape. “The issue in the Northeast for storing aircraft outside is you’re fighting a neverending battle, with weather and birds and things like that, that do damage,” Parton says. “Some of it is just kind of a clean-up. Some of the paint is peeling, so that needs to be scraped off, and we’ll use different paint that will better withstand the weather,” he said. “We’ll do some power-washing to take out all of the residue from birds that have decided to set up camp in and around the different parts of the planes.”
“It’s a hard thing to do,” Parton adds, “but we’re going to try to put together a group of people and hopefully get out there in the fall and knock this off over a weekend.”
Grumman Memorial Park is located on Route 25 in Calverton, just west of the intersection of Routes 25 and 25A. The park is open daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m. For more information, visit grummanpark.org.