Harry Goodall flew more than 200 combat missions in a 41-year U.S. Air Force career and retired in 1991 as a highly decorated lieutenant general.
Tragically, he was killed when a small private plane he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff from a McGregor airport in September 2006.
He lived a legendary life, which is why his North American Aviation T-28A Trojan aircraft carries such prestige. Housed for years in Sacramento, California, it has found a home at Waco Regional Airport, courtesy of Harold Rafuse, Goodall’s longtime colleague and friend.
Rafuse, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel involved in multiple aviation-related businesses, hosted a ceremony Friday to dedicate the plane he will place in his personal hangar at the airport. He will roll it out occasionally to keep its engine purring and for flyovers at military funerals, air shows around the country and occasional static displays.
Rafuse said he paid a “handsome price” for the plane.
It is the training plane Goodall used in the 1952 time frame, “which is why it was so special to him,” Rafuse said. The T-28A is a trainer, not used in Goodall’s combat missions, he said.
“His favorite plane was the F-16,” Rafuse said.
Goodall “completed pilot training in January 1959 and went on to fighter training at Perrin Air Force Base, Texas,” according to a biography Rafuse provided.
“I knew where his training plane was and kept in touch with the people who owned it,” Rafuse said.
Waco deserves the honor of becoming home to Goodall’s plane, having seen more than 30 aviation-related companies open for business, creation of the Greater Waco Aviation Alliance, and the naming of an aviation task force that has addressed, among other issues, the marketing of Waco Regional Airport, Rafuse said.
About 30 people attended Friday’s dedication ceremony, “demonstrating once again Waco’s love for and commitment to the military,” said John Wells, retired pastor of Waco’s Holy Spirit Episcopal Church. A helicopter pilot, he met Goodall through the American Military Officers Association.
“It’s incredible to see that plane in Waco, right down to the identifying numbers on the tail,” Wells said.
Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, also attended the ceremony.
The aviation and aerospace industry remains a priority in recruiting efforts to bring good-paying jobs to Greater Waco, Collins said. L3 Technologies, which is heavily involved in aircraft modification at its facility at Texas State Technical College airport, employs almost 900 people.
Meanwhile, the rocket-testing SpaceX facility in McGregor has seen employment leap to more than 500, according to company officials, and aviation-related companies, including Texas Aero, RAM Aircraft, LP and Blackhawk Modifications dot sites around Waco Regional Airport.
Collins said a static aircraft display for Goodall’s trainer at Waco Regional is an idea worth considering.