Air Of Celebration

Assistant Managing Editor
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Calling in an Israeli air strike may not be your first thought for bar or bat mitzvah party preparation. But the popularity of aviation history is growing, as evidenced by enhanced exhibits at the Intrepid and the Cradle of Aviation museums here. So Long Islander and Israel-native Arye Sachs is hoping his expanding fleet of vintage aircraft and cockpits, which he has salvaged and faithfully restored, will add an adventurous touch to kids’ celebrations. “Aviation, and especially military aviation, is attracting children from 8- 80,” says Sachs, whose planes have entertained kids at Chai Lifeline’s summer camp and advanced up Fifth Avenue in last year’s Salute to Israel parade. “They are a tribute to American patriotism and ingenuity.” The New York-based “squadron” now includes an F-4 Phantom, three A-7 Corsairs, an 0H-58 helicopter and what Sachs says is the world’s only F-14 Tomcat fighter body in private hands, as well as three civilian planes or cockpits. He has several more craft in Arizona, including three F-106 bombers. Most of the collection consists of cockpit and nose assembly, about 30-40 feet long and 10-12 feet high. The helicopter is almost completely intact, but for the tail and rotors and most of the interior instruments. A lifelong aviation buff, Sachs, 48, who was born in B’nei Brak, started collecting aircraft parts while working in the jewelry business. He began driving his cockpits on trailers to children’s hospitals to entertain sick kids, and marveled at how much attention they drew. In a burst of inspiration, he started, a company that combined charitable missions of cheering up kids at benefits with what he hoped would be lucrative ad and trademark placement geared toward big corporations. His clients so far have included Sleepy’s, the mattress giant, and Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Bayer aspirin. “It’s all about eyeballs, and retaining the image,” says Sachs. “Whether it’s advertising or entertainment you want to use the ‘wow’ effect. A military plane is something you don’t see every day.” Because the advertising business has trailed off during the recession, Sachs recently decided to open the business to private celebrations. “It has created an opportunity for the consumer,” he says. Unlike many museums, Jet Angel’s cockpits are all fully mobile, unsealed and accessible for kids to climb in for photos. “At most museums they never let you sit inside a real fighter cockpit,” says Sachs. “They tell kids you can look but not touch. This is the only mobile, interactive aviation museum in the world, where you can see, touch and smell the real deal.” Sachs made headlines last October when Pfizer sued him for using an unauthorized Viagra logo on a mock-up missile he drove through Manhattan in what the pharmaceutical giant called a publicity stunt. (He called it a “fun day tour.”) The corporation wasn’t amused by the lewd pun he was trying to make when he parked outside their office and in other Manhattan locations. During last year’s election, he also showcased “Obama O-Mama” and “Viva McCain” missiles. Many of the aircraft are veterans of combat missions. The A7-Corsairs, which are the most fully restored, were part of the 132nd Tactical Fighter Wing, which Sachs has a picture of flying over Vietnam. In addition to events and advertising, Sachs is well known in the small community of aviation salvage buyers. During a tour of his storage facility in Bay Shore, L.I., Sachs displays such parts as a laser-shielded visor for pilot’s helmets, helicopter rotors and an authentic, unused empty Napalm canister. He recently sold an ejector seat to the Intrepid Museum. Sachs served in the Israeli military, but in artillery and intelligence, not in the air force, whose pilots, he says are considered “the supermen of supermen.” After immigrating to America he obtained a license to fly small aircraft. Sachs sometimes faces critics who say he is glorifying war in the eyes of children. In response, he says he’s fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, who longed for a time when swords can be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. “I’m taking what used to be military equipment, dismantling it and turning into a playful toy for children,” he says. “If I was promoting war I would display them with their wings and bombs.”

Last Update:

10/08/2009 - 10:03

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