James Clemens campus to receive actual jet as school icon
MADISON – The James Clemens High School Jets hope to have an actual military jet ‘land’ on campus as its ‘mascot’ namesake.
In April, Madison Board of Education approved an agreement to receive a TF-9J aircraft from the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. Currently, the plane is stored outside the Veterans Memorial Museum in Huntsville.
The TF-9J (Cougar) jet flew in missions to Korea and in the Navy’s elite demonstration team, The Blue Angels.
School leaders negotiated to transfer the aircraft to James Clemens at no charge on a permanent loan basis. Retired Col. Courtney Taylor, a Junior ROTC instructor at James Clemens, spearheaded the effort.
Plans are to refurbish the jet for static display in the roundabout at the school’s main entrance.
Donations and fundraisers will pay to relocate, refurbish, paint and mount the plane, Taylor said. As part of the agreement, Madison Board of Education will pay to insure the aircraft — the only cost to the district.
Taylor told the board the quick turnaround for the acquisition agreement is “remarkable,” considering a school south of Montgomery, nicknamed the “Flying Squadrons,” has been on a waiting list for 41 years.
Likely factors in this approval are the fact the aircraft was already at Veterans Memorial Museum in Huntsville and the area’s strong military connections with defense companies and Redstone Arsenal.
With Navy approval, the jet will have a Blue Angels paint scheme, similar to the school’s colors. Project completion will depend on the pace of donations. A local company has agreed to donate free use of its hangar for restoration and display site preparation.