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Friday, January 20, 2012

Airplane On a Stick - Panama City, Florida

Today we traveled over to Panama City and Panama City Beach.  These are about a hundred miles to the east of us here in the Pensacola area.  If you haven't heard about Panama City Beach, just ask your teenagers.  They are probably right now plotting a way to get to PCB for Spring Break.

When we crossed over the bridge from Panama City Beach to enter Panama City, we noticed an airplane on a stick.  Naturally, I stopped to add a picture to my collection.

I was curious about the plane and looked around for a marker but couldn't find one.  I did take a close look at the plane itself, an F-101 Voodoo and found a name on the side, "Capt. Rick Seltzer."

Well, thanks to the Internet, it was easy enough to find out that this late 1950s vintage plane was one of several actually flown by Rick Seltzer when he was stationed at nearby Tyndall Air Force Base.  Seltzer, who passed away in 1992, had remained in the area after his Air Force days and became a successful local business owner.  He also was elected county commissioner in 1987 and later chairman of the county board in 1989.  The plane was put in place 34 years ago on the campus of the Gulf Coast Community College as a memorial for Air Force service members.  A nearby park is named for the former commissioner Seltzer.

But time passes.  The plane is now in the middle of a minor local controversy.  As the second photo shows, time and weather have taken a toll.  The bill for proper maintenance is around $70,000 and no one wants to pay.  Well, yes.  The county can't afford to hire lifeguards as the nearby Seltzer park in spite of the fact that 11 tourist drowned in the area in 2008Tyndall air force base isn't going to kick in the money (check with the Secretary of Defense on his spending plans!)  Gulf Coast Community College says they can't find the money what with cuts in state aid to education.  Their plan is move the plane, call the area Veteran's Park and, well, the grass had to be mowed anyway.

But at least one local resident has become exasperated enough to write an angry letter to the editor of the Panama City News Herald.  Perhaps JAN BOLDING PENTA can coax a local aviation group to take up the battle like the folks in Owatonna did as described in the adjoining post.

Surprisingly, there is no Wikipedia entry for Rick Seltzer.  But, from the Bay County Library website, here is a picture of him with his poodle.

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