Two Jets To Become Artificial Reefs

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BAY COUNTY-- Two retired Air Force jets are getting prepped Wednesday for their last mission: diving into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

You probably recognize the F-101 Voodoo aircrafts as landmarks at the Panama City marina and the Gulf Coast State College.

But if you want to see them again, you'll have to dive 75 feet into the water.

These retired F-101 Voodoo aircrafts probably didn't spend much time under water during their time in combat.

But after Thursday morning, they'll be the Gulf of Mexico's newest artificial reef.

"Initially they said they were just going to send them to a scrap pile. I contacted the county representative and suggested that they made a reef and we took it off from there," Frank Mancinelli of the Tyndall Dive Club said.

Before the jets could be placed in their new home, more than 400 pounds of wiring had to be removed. Possible pollutants, like fuel and oil, also had to be cleaned out.

The Tyndall dive team has been waiting a year and a half for this day.

"Sometimes it felt like it was a lot longer. I thought it'd never happen."

The "Rick Seltzer" plane, formerly seen at Gulf Coast State College, will help create the reef.

The two jets will be placed three miles south of the county pier, 75 feet under water.

"From what I understand, they're going to try and do a controlled sink, get them close to the floor, and then cut them loose," Marcus Lee Parrish said.

Officials say it takes about a week for a new artificial reef to attract big fish.

And once the big fish come, it's only a matter of time until other sea life follow.

"I'm sure the community I know, just the divers, a lot of those guys will love it. I'm sure people will be spear-fishing and I"m sure there'll be fishermen around them as well."

Bay County officials said they'll be sinking the jets into their new home Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m., weather permitting. The public is invited to attend.