Historical planes, hangars at Wiley Post Airport damaged in Friday tornado

Sunday, May 11th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BETHANY, Okla. _ Several historical aircraft were among about 70 planes that were damaged or destroyed when a tornado hit Wiley Post Airport, officials said.

Damage from the Friday tornado is estimated in the millions of dollars.

Planes tied down on the runways received relatively light damage, but those in hangars along the airport's southeast strip were destroyed when the hangars collapsed. About 40 hangars were damaged or destroyed.

``It's heartbreaking,'' Tom Rush said. ``If you love airplanes, you sure hate to see them damaged and destroyed like this. Some of these planes are 80 years old.''

Rush is a member of the Commemorative Air Force, a group that restores World War II fighter jets. The group has four aircraft stored at the general aviation airport.

Only one of the group's planes was damaged. It was in the process of being restored and sustained damage to the wings, propeller and main body.

Rush said the storm set back the restoration six to eight months.

Larry Burler also had four World War II fighter planes at Wiley Post. They are valued at about $3 million and sustained about $80,000 in damage when part of a hangar collapsed. Butler's tools sustained about $100,000 damage.

While hangars and planes were tossed about the airfield, the airport's operations were shut down for less than two hours as crews cleared runways and taxiways of debris. The airport reopened late Friday.

Wiley Post is home to nearly 400 aircraft, including many corporate jets. It is owned by the Oklahoma City Airport Trust.

Most of the damaged planes were historical aircraft or smaller, propeller-driven aircraft.