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The Suburbanite
  • MAPS lands rare Navy plane

  • The Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) Museum recently acquired the loan of a rare Navy Cold War photo reconnaissance aircraft for display.

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  • The Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) Museum recently acquired the loan of a rare Navy Cold War photo reconnaissance aircraft for display.
    The aircraft, a Grumman F9F-8P, is one of only four on display in the world. Of the others, two are in California and one is in Arizona. Even the prestigious Naval Aircraft Museum in Pensacola, Fla., does not have one on display.
    The Grumman F9F “Cougar” was the first swept wing operational fighter deployed by the Navy. It evolved from of the earlier Grumman straight-wing F9F “Panther,” which had fought in the Korean War. The “Panther” was inferior to the Russian swept-wing Mig-15 and the swept-wing design helped increase the aircraft’s capabilities. By the time the aircraft became operational, it was too late for service in Korea.
    The reconnaissance version featured a modified, elongated nose that carried up to 14 cameras for photo work. No armament was carried. The plane was assigned to both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers and carried out extensive reconnaissance and aerial mapping missions during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
    Eventually Grumman produced 110 of the planes.
    They were phased out of service by the mid-1960s.
    ACROSS STATE LINES
    This Navy aircraft came to Ohio as the result of the hard work and dedication of one man, Dr. Richard Maioriello. A former Navy and Air Force pilot, he happened upon the aircraft one day while on vacation in Horsehead, N.Y.
    While his wife was shopping, he saw the Wings of Eagle Museum and noticed the F9F-8P on display. Maioriello went in and realized that the aircraft was one he had flown over Lebanon during the crisis there in 1958 while assigned to VFP-62 on the USS Essex (CVA-9).
    Maioriello finally was able to contact the museum owner after a prolonged period of “phone tag” and asked if the owner would sell the plane to him. Much to his surprise, the owner agreed. Eventually, the plane arrived in pieces and parts at his home in Magnolia in December 2005. It was stored in Waynesburg, where work to refurbish it was carried out at the Waynesburg Carriage Factory.
    “The guys did a great job,” Maioriello said. “They were very dedicated. Unfortunately, some the restoration work was outside their area of expertise. I wanted to have the wings fold as they originally di,d but that was not possible. … The canopy was also wrong but, eventually, I found a correct one on the Internet. There are even several original cameras still in the nose.”
    Eventually, the work was done and the plane was ready for display.
    Maioriello had originally contacted MAPS about having the plane displayed and worked on but was turned down. Instead, the plane was kept in storage at the carriage factory until this past fall when new MAPS director, Kim Kovesci came on board.
    Page 2 of 2 - Kovesci heard that work had begun to get the aircraft displayed at the museum, and he helped to make that a reality.
    The plane finally began its journey to MAPS last fall. It was towed from Waynesburg up state Route 44 then onto Interstate 77 for the final leg of the journey to MAPS. There, it was parked on the flight ramp with other aircraft from the Cold War era.
    And the museum made sure the wings were also fixed to allow them to fold.
    “We are very happy to add this aircraft to our display,” Kovesci said. “With its folding wings, we would love to be able to tow it in the Hall of Fame parade in August since most of our other aircraft are too big for the parade. It is a rare plane, and we are very glad to have it at MAPS.”
    MILITARY HISTORY
    Maioriello’s dedication to getting the “Cougar” back to this area and displayed can be traced back to his military career.
    He became a navy pilot in 1954 and flew until 1959, when he left the navy to go to medical school. Maioriello joined the Air Force and flew the F-4 “Phantom.” He flew a few missions over Vietnam, but because he was a doctor, he was posted to fly reconnaissance F-4’s in Germany. This was because of the Geneva Convention prohibited doctors flying armed aircraft.
    Maioriello flew with the Air Force from 1969 until 1979, when the program he was in was terminated. He came to the Canton area and set up his medical practice.
    “We need to preserve our history,” Maioriello said of why he invested in this project. “If seeing this airplane helps kids get excited (about the military), perhaps they may step forward sometime in the future when they are needed.”
    Seeing his old plane brought back a lot of memories. While the F-4 was his favorite plane to fly, he still has fond memories of the F9F.
    “It was a wonderful plane to fly, a great experience,” Maioriello said. “While I flew better aircraft later on in my career, this was a ‘hot’ aircraft to fly for its time. We could get up over 40,000 feet and fly at 600-700 miles an hour. It was different flying back then.”
    The restored aircraft can be seen at the MAPS facility in Green. Information on the museum can be found online at http://mapsairmuseum.org or by calling the museum at 330-896-6332. MAPS is located off Massillon Road at 2260 International Parkway in Green.