PALM SPRINGS G-STAR GETS PLANE
A Vietnam-era Grumman Mohawk warplane is towed on Congress Avenue from the Lantana airport to the G-Star School of the Arts on Wednesday. It will be parked next to a Douglas C-47 Dakota Skytrain. LANNIS WATERS / THE PALM BEACH POST
Greg Hauptner, G-Star’s CEO, stands in front of the new plane on Wednesday. “These planes… will teach our kids history and give our kids a chance to shoot films around them,” he said.
KEVIN D. THOMPSON / THE PALM BEACH POST
PALM SPRINGS — After 6 miles, the long Kauff ’s Towing truck turned right off Congress Avenue into the G-Star School of the Arts for Film, Animation and Performing Arts, carrying something you don’t see sitting at many schools — a plane. Not just any plane. It’s a Grumman Mohawk gunship, a military aircraft built in 1967, that saw action in Vietnam, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq and that flew in secret missions worldwide. “These planes have a great deal to do with our history,” said Greg Hauptner, G-Star’s CEO. “They’ll teach our kids history and give our kids a chance to shoot films around them.” Sophomore Justine Swiatkowski, 15, knows exactly what Hauptner is saying. “We can use it in all of our projects,” she said. “It’s so historic and could be a new hangout spot.” The aircraft is the second to find a home at G-Star. Several years ago, a green, historic WWII Douglas C-47 Dakota Skytrain that flew in Normandy on D-Day in 1944 was given to the school. That plane has appeared in many movies, videos, commercials and television productions. “They make great backdrop props,” Hauptner said. About a year ago, a group of men asked Hauptner whether he had parts for another C-47. “We just started talking and I gave them one essential part,” Hauptner said. “They say, ‘we’ll give you an airplane for it.’ I said, ‘A whole airplane for one little part? That works.’” The Mohawk, Hauptner said, is owned by Paul Pelfley, owner of Mohawk Technologies. “They call Paul ‘The Mohawk Man’ because he has 18 of these planes,” Hauptner said. “Early in the war in ’67, it was a gunship and was changed to intelligence-gathering. We’re gonna fly it around and watch the kids.” Hauptner, of course, is joking. Before the plane was towed, the ejection seats were removed. “We don’t want to cause any trouble,” Hauptner said, laughing. “We didn’t want them going up 300 feet without a parachute.” The wings and two large fuel tanks still need to installed. That will be done in about a week. Hauptner said he doesn’t want anyone to think the fuel tanks are, well, anything else. “I know the first thing the kids and parents are going to think is that we have big bombs on the plane,” Hauptner said. “They’re just empty fuel tanks.” Vincent Bonasera, another 15-year-old 10th-grader, is taking pictures of G-Star’s new silver prop, marveling at its complexity. “It means that our school is different than most,” he said. “We have two aircraft planes and that makes our school stand out.” Then Bonasera pauses to add another important point. “It’s cool,” he said, “but it’s not as important as academics.”