The American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport recently designated Chris Suhr of Massapequa Park as the "crew chief" responsible for the restoration of a Vietnam era Republic F-105 Thunderchief. The aircraft, a supersonic bomber that saw action over the skies of South East Asia, is on permanent loan to the Airpower Museum by the United States Air Force and its arrival was made possible through a grant obtained by State Senator Charles Fuschillo.
Chris Suhr of Massapequa Park, the new "crew chief" responsible for the restoration of a Vietnam era Republic F-105 Thunderchief.
Suhr is an Air Force veteran who worked on maintaining B-52 bombers approximately 30 years ago when they were operating against targets during the height of the Vietnam conflict. Today he is married and an executive with Allstate Insurance company on Long Island.
"My interest in vintage aircraft began as a boy," Suhr said. "I grew up in Bethpage, just south of the north/south runway of Grumman. I saw their products come and go throughout the 50s. I always wondered why the fifth grade was so tough. Years later I realized it was because of the perfect view of Grumman's incoming and outgoing air traffic. That was the only school year my classroom faced the right side of the building, offering an excellent view for observers."
By 1966, Suhr was in the United States Air Force. Trained as an Airframe Repairman, he was assigned to SAC's B-52G's and KC-135A's at Griffiss AFB in Rome, NY and 416th Bomb Wing, 416th Field Maintenance Squadron. In April of 1968, he was sent to Andersen AFB on Guam with the 4133 Bomb Wing (Prov), which was engaged in "Arc-Light" bombing of Vietnam.
Suhr is now tasked with bringing back to life a weary F-105 that was built at Republic Aviation in the 1960s. "There are few people on Long Island who have Chris' dedication, energy and expertise," said Jeff Clyman, museum executive director and president. "He was the obvious choice to be given this designation. He has been with us before we even opened our doors and his commitment has never waived."
The Massapequa Park resident is leading a team that is cleaning off years of grime, restoring the aircraft's markings, improving the cockpit and getting it ready for its role in the museum's living history program that pays tribute to the Vietnam veteran.