The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress 59-2584 (aka Midnight Express) Restoration Project is being called “Project Welcome Home” (PWH). The project is being coordinated through the Museum of Flight (MoF) by two RAHS representatives, Freshman Max Welliver and Troy Hoehne. PWH will take residency in the grassy area in the back parking lot behind RAHS and the B52 will be the centerpiece for the Vietnam War Memorial. The memorial will additionally be composed of common tributes such statues, plaques, and short reads.
“The plane will be joined by a statue depicting a returning aviator honoring veterans who served in all military branches between 1964 and 1975,” provided by the MoF website. “The park will also feature an exhibit about the dozens of types of planes and helicopters flown during the war.”
Welliver has devoted a lot of his time into the Project Welcome Home efforts. He has helped with the communication between RAHS and the MoF and he is building a B-52 scale model kit through the Northwest Scale Modelers that will be displayed at MoF.
“I’m a project liaison between RAHS and [the] MoF,” said Welliver. “I’ve attended some meetings on fundraising and the project timeline and then [I] report back to the school. Working with veterans who were directly involved with this plane is really amazing. Mr. Hoehne is an awesome adviser too!”
Trip Switzer, vice president of the PWH development and MoF employee, is responsible for fundraising and project development. He is excited to see how it comes out as he has also spent several hours organizing the efforts.
“The project began as the restoration of the Museum’s B-52,” said Switzer, “and grew into a more complete effort to honor all Vietnam Veterans by making the restored B-52 the centerpiece of a ‘Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Park’ just outside of RAHS.”
Welliver became involved with the Project after learning about it on the MoF website and seeing the B-52 for the first time.
“I was looking on the Museum of Flight website and learned about Project Welcome and the B-52 restoration,” said Welliver. “Last year, I visited the MoF restoration center up in Everett and saw the B-52 from a distance. I knew I wanted to get involved, so I talked with Ms. Tipton. It will be amazing to see this iconic aircraft right next to our school every day.”
The project has been going on since 26 July 2017 and, according to Switzer, the park will be completed next fall and dedicated on Veterans Day weekend 2018.
Another contributor and RAHS Contemporary Global Issues and History of Aircraft Design teacher, Troy Hoehne, has been beneficial to the development as the RAHS-MoF liaison advisor.
“One of the students, Max Welliver, has been working on this and he’s done 99.9 percent of the effort so far,” said Hoehne. “And the principal, Mrs. Tipton, thought that it might be nice to have a staff liaison person so she asked me if I wanted to do that and I said sure, I’d be happy to.”
Hoehne has been supportive with the process by encouraging Max Welliver even though he himself has only attended one meeting.
“I’ll be helping to coordinate things like having the whole school to be present for the dedication ceremony,” said Hoehne. “Again I cannot overemphasize how Max has done [a lot of work] and in [his own] way has contributed the most effort here.”
The informative and commemorative park will be honored by all RAHS students and civilians of the Museum but it will especially touch the hearts of the unthanked Vietnam War veterans and the loved ones of the fallen soldiers.