Heart of Louisiana: F-4 Phantom jet in Livingston Parish
Written by: Dave McNamara, Heart of Louisiana
It's a new and unusual site along a stretch of Louisiana interstate highway that's turning heads.
On Interstate 12 near the Satsuma exit, at a break in the Piney Woods, you will see a jet fighter.
When driving along Interstate 12 through rural Livingston Parish, one of the last things you expect to see is an F-4 Phantom jet. It seems to appear out of nowhere.
But there it is - a freshly painted navy jet fighter that for more than two decades ruled the skies during and after the Vietnam War.
But what about this F-4 parked on a concrete slab? Curiosity got the best of Dennis Howze who brought his three grandsons to get a closer look.
"We keep seeing the plane when we come by and I was trying to show the kids a little bit of interest so they would learn more about it and maybe get interested in what they wanted to do for their careers or whatever, you know," said Howze.
To find out why the jet fighter is here, one has to look no further than the name on the cockpit, Lt. Garry Lewis.
"The Phantom is still the favorite of most everybody that flew that airplane regardless of what they flew later," said Lewis.
Garry Lewis and his father both served in the Navy. Garry spent years flying an F-4 Phantom and he taught other rookie pilots how to take-off and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
"The pilots looking at the guy waving his fingers around like this and when he touches the deck, that pilot got to have his head against the head rest," said Lewis. "He's got his throttles wide open and between 1.3 and 1.8 seconds, you go from in this airplane from 0 to 180 and you're in the air."
The landings are almost as jarring.
"When you actually hit the flight deck, you go full power to take off in case you don't get the wire. But believe me, it catches you and it pulls you to a stop rapidly," said Lewis.
The F-4 was acquired from St. John Parish where plans for a military museum didn't materialize. The fighter jet took a 50-mile trip down the interstate in the wee hours of the morning and landed in its new home along I-12 at the Satsuma exit.
"It's a pretty large airplane and it took up most of the interstate," said Lewis.
Here, the F-4 will be the centerpiece of a new military park
"The airplane will be elevated, probably 20 foot tall," said Lewis. "And it will be lit. The area will be a museum area for other military pieces Livingston is going to bring in, a tank, field artillery to recognize other branches of the service."
The F-4 jet fighter may also mark the entrance to a proposed Livingston Parish Airport. If you want to see the jet, exit I-12 at Satsuma and you will find the navy fighter on the southwest side of the exit.