Costa Mesa resident and retired Navy SEAL Pete Carolan puts a layer of primer paint on the Grumman F9F Panther jet fighter in Lions Park on Wednesday. Carolan and a group of military veterans and residents are repainting the plane, which was used in the Korean War and brought to the park in 1960 by the Costa Mesa Exchange Club. (Bradley Zint, Daily Pilot / July 17, 2013)

Learning of the new look being given to the regionally famous airplane at the unofficially re-named Costa Mesa Airplane Park brought back many fond memories.

After her appearance during the 1960 fish fry parade, she was towed to rest and became a landmark. Back then, she seemed so much larger, and I fantasized her landing here from some unknown world.

I recall the plane being fairly intact, the weather-beaten skin and windshield the originals. You could actually climb into the cockpit, grab the stick, pretend to be the pilot or just have fun playing with all the wire-harness spaghetti still dangling with some of the connectors attached.

Until the tailpipe was blocked with rebar, it was fascinating to explore the inside of the fuselage. One day, I worked up enough courage to attempt to climb up to the tail wing and didn't quite make it. Again, it seemed so huge and near impossible.

Reaching up to make my final approach, I instead went into a tailspin onto the tarmac (sand) below. Purple bruises, but no Purple Heart.

As the casualties mounted on our decommissioned, proud war bird, the decision was made to coat her with cement to cover sharp and rusted hazards.

This would retain the original shape, although subsequent generations had no idea this was actually the real deal. When all is said and done, kids will probably scoff and joke, "Hey old-man, that plane is way to heavy to have ever flown."

To which I would respond, "Pretend it's on a video game."

James H. Bridges

Costa Mesa

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Chipotle's vegan offerings

Re. "City Lights: Going meatless at Chipotle":

Thank you for a very sensitive and sensible article. We could all eat less meat and make a huge impact on our humanity to the animals. I love it that the message is getting out.

Gretchen Alenin

Newport Beach