The only flight-worthy Boeing B-29, FIFI, is a part of the Commemorative Air Force fleet, which could be relocated to Smyrna from Texas. (Photo submitted)
The same organization that brought FIFI, the iconic Boeing B-29 Superfortress, to Rutherford County may bring its headquarters to Smyrna.
The Commemorative Air Force, a nonprofit organization dedicated to refurbishing and preserving historic combat airplanes, is looking for a new national headquarters location, and the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport has made the final list.
The group, currently based in Midland, Texas, began searching for a new headquarters in May and recently announced the top eight sites selected from more than 25 interested and viable locations.
“The opportunity of landing this headquarters is tremendous for the airport, Rutherford County and Tennessee,” said John Black, executive director of the Smyrna Airport. “The CAF expansion brings with it a significant economic impact in the form of jobs and tourism. We are honored to be among the finalists for this project.”
The CAF National Airbase facility will feature a year-round aviation attraction, house headquarters staff and member-volunteers who will organize and execute an annual warbird airshow and fly-in, as well as serve as a base of operations for some of the organization’s most significant flying vintage military aircraft.
Criteria to be among the top group of candidates included whether the location is in in a major metropolitan area with a minimum population of one million and is easily accessible for tourists and CAF members, many of who would be arriving through a nearby major international airport. In addition, the top potential sites were chosen based on the infrastructure of interstate highways.
Other locations up for consideration include six Texas airports: Alliance Airport in Forth Worth, Collin County Airport in McKinney, Dallas Executive Airport, Ellington Field Airport in Houston, Lackland/Kelly Airport in San Antonio, and the North Texas Regional Airport near Denison.
The New Century Airport, located near Kansas City, was also named to the top eight sites.
The CAF is expected to decide on its new location by the end of the year, according to officials with the group.
Rutherford County’s strong heritage tourism base with Stones River National Battlefield and Smyrna’s longtime support of the Great Tennessee Air Show make this an ideal location, said Brian Hercules, vice president of economic development at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.
“The Commemorative Air Force would be a great addition to the county,” said Hercules, who is also a colonel in the CAF.
CAF membership originally included mostly World War II veterans, but it has now spread across the nation to a more diverse population.
Membership is open to all men and women who are 18 and older, and a cadet program is available for those younger than 18 years old.
To learn more about the organization, visit www.commemorativeairforce.org.