Kentucky Aviation Legend to Visit EKU April 17

Franklin photo

A former squadron commander of the 493rd Tactical Fighter Squadron of the United States Air Force who helped lead an historic air strike will address Eastern Kentucky University aviation students and others on Friday, April 17.

Native Kentuckian Col. Arnold “Arnie” Franklin (Ret.) will address EKU’s aviation seniors at 9 a.m. in Ferrell Auditorium of the Combs Building. His remarks kick off College-to-Career Day, which serves as the capstone event for EKU’s soon-to-be graduates in Professional Flight and Aerospace Management.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from Western Kentucky University, Franklin was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Force following graduation from Officer Training School in 1967. During his Air Force career, he accumulated more than 3,500 flying hours, including more than 780 combat hours while flying OV-10s and F-111s in Southeast Asia and RAF Lakenheath, England.

While serving at Lakenheath, Franklin was selected to be the squadron commander of the 493rd Tactical Fighter Squadron. In that role, he was tasked to lead the U.S. Air Force portion of Operation Eldorado Canyon, the strike on Libya 29 years ago almost to the day (April 15, 1986). Under the direction of President Ronald Reagan, it was one of the first strikes in recent times against a foreign power responsible for state-sponsored terror. Following the failure to rescue the U.S. embassy hostages in Tehran, the successful strike against Colonel Muammar Khadafy's Libyan regime signaled the United States’ unwillingness to tolerate terrorist activities against American citizens.  

Franklin retired in 1996 after a 30-year career as a fighter pilot in the Air Force. He then spent nine years as a high school teacher, while leading the Air Force Junior ROTC cadets at Warren East High School in Bowling Green. More recently, he was selected as director emeritus of the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green. He was inducted last fall into the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame.     

All EKU students, regardless of major, are invited to join the aviation seniors in hearing Franklin recount his history-making flight. Additionally, all community and statewide history buffs and aviation enthusiasts are welcome to attend. Of particular note, along with other aircraft belonging to history-making Kentuckian aviators, one of the US F-111 strike aircraft used in Franklin's Libyan raid is on display in Bowling Green at the Aviation Heritage Park.

Anyone interested in attending Franklin's EKU presentation should contact EKU Director of Aviation Ralph Gibbs at 859-622-1010.

Published on March 23, 2015

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