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The refurbished TF-9J fighter jet made its way on a rainy Wednesday up County Line Road to the campus of James Clemens High School.

Fighter jet touches down on James Clemens High School campus

The refurbished TF-9J fighter jet in storage before leaving for its new home on the campus of James Clemens High School.

MADISON – A long-awaited addition to James Clemens High School has finally landed on the school’s campus. The school’s mascot, a refurbished TF-9J fighter jet was moved Wednesday from storage to the high school in Madison. The project was led by general congtractor The Highland Group, NOLA VanPeursem Architects and the Madison City Board of Education.

Acquired by the Madison City Board of Education in 2014, the Northrop Grumman-built Navy TF-9J Cougar fighter jet is on permanent loan from the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. Although never seeing combat, the jet was used as an advanced flight trainer during the Vietnam War era and flown by the Navy’s elite Blue Angels flying team. The TF-9J, initially designated as the F9F-8T, is a two-seat trainer variant of the basic F9F-8 Cougar carrier-borne fighter.

Recently, skilled craftsman Randy Beavers completed the refurbishment of the aircraft.  Throughout the years, junior ROTC members from James Clemens High School, shop students, and other individuals have contributed to the restoration process. All restoration efforts adhered to strict guidelines regarding paint schemes and display requirements for the pedestal-mounted aircraft.  This initiative was made possible thanks to a sizable grant from Northrop Grumman and community donations.

The authentic retired Navy aircraft will soon be on permanent display outside the school. On Wednesday, the fighter jet was transported to the back parking lot of James Clemens High School, escorted by the Madison Police Department.

Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols added, “The entire community – students, parents, faculty, boosters – is excited to see this project become a reality. Having a fighter jet displayed as the centerpiece of the campus not only speaks to the spirit of the James Clemens Jets but to the heritage of the rich military and defense history that so permeates this area.”

Michael Barnes, Vice President of North Alabama for The Highland Group, also commented,  “We are thrilled and honored to be the chosen general contractor for this monumental project at James Clemens. As a proud North Alabama native, I am beyond excited to see our team at The Highland Group play a part in creating a lasting symbol of our community’s dedication to innovation and progress. This fighter jet will inspire generations to come, and we can’t wait to help make this dream a reality.”

For more information about The Highland Group and this project, please visit www.highlandgroup.org.

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