Famous aircraft carrier takes new form at Jetton Park
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – While the 60,000 ton U.S.S. Forrestal, a post-World War II decommissioned U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, might be on its way to being disposed, Fred Kirchner is making sure it is going to live on – just in a smaller size.
After more than 40 years in the making, Kirchner’s 5-foot replica of the famous aircraft carrier launches for its maiden voyage Monday, Aug. 1, at Jetton Park at 11 a.m.
Kirchner is set to display his little carrier for guests to view until it departs for open waters. Once placed at its make-do port, Kirchner, as the ship’s on-land captain, will maneuver the vessel through the waters via radio-control.
Kirchner’s fascination with building replicas began when he was a young boy in Germany, where he used kits to build model airplanes and ships. His career took a similar turn.
After moving to America, Kirchner worked at Newport News Shipyards in Virginia installing flame-cutting machinery. It was there, after seeing the construction of aircraft carriers and atomic submarines for the U.S. Navy, where he vowed to one day recreate an aircraft carrier.
“I chose the Forrestal because, as I recall, it was the only aircraft carrier for which detailed plans were available at the time,” Kirchner said, though he has, unfortunately, never seen the ship in person.
So he got to work, but not from a kit. He drew out the plans for the ship and got to work.
The model is made of wood and fiberglass, except, of course, for the motors, shaft, batteries, and certain “fittings,” Kirchner said.
The fittings were various unlikely materials he used to recreate the intricate details of the ship.
“Beaded necklace parts were used to fashion miniature lifeboats and fenders,” Kirchner said. “The top of a nose hair trimmer was used for the base of one of the radar units.”
The U.S.S. Forrestal gained fame from its size. Dubbed a “super carrier,” the ship had a 4-acre flight deck and was the launch point for several noted pilots, including now U.S. Sen. John McCain when he flew A-4 Skyhawks during the Vietnam War.
The carrier now rests in the waters of the Philadelphia Navy Yard after 38 years of service. Its fate is unknown after plans to donate it to a museum fell through. The ship could either be scrapped or sunk to become an offshore artificial reef.
Kirchner, however, will treasure his little carrier and the years it took him to create it. As for future replication endeavors, Kirchner said the Forrrestal will remain his one and only.
“Right now, I have no plans to take on another such project,” Kirchner said. “My wife’s ‘honey-do list’ beckons.”