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BELL X-22 TO REMAIN IN STORAGE AT AIRPORT

Buffalo's last locally built experimental aircraft, the Bell X-22, won't be making a final flight Friday after all.

Local aviation buffs fighting the transfer of the tilt-rotor craft to a Schenectady-area museum were notified late Wednesday that the X-22 will stay stored at the Buffalo airport in its blue shrink-wrapped cocoon -- at least for the time being.

"I am thrilled, to say the least," said Jack Prior of Prior Aviation, one of the leaders of the effort to keep the plane in Western New York.

Efforts to put the innovative aircraft on display here will continue, Prior added.

Fans of the X-22 -- a forerunner of the current Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey military transport that uses its tilt-rotor design -- said the decision to keep the plane here was made by the Navy's aviation museum in Florida, which owns the aircraft.

The Schenectady-area museum, the local group was told, has withdrawn its request for a display loan of the X-22.

No immediate reasons were given. However, local aviators said the Navy may have had concerns about the safety aspect of the project, which called for using heavy-lift helicopters to pick up the plane and carry it over Buffalo's suburbs and about 200 miles of countryside.

The museum also was facing unexpected local costs in preparing the airplane for the move.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo area's three congressmen -- Bill Paxon, Jack Quinn and John LaFalce -- had issued an appeal Wednesday to Navy Secretary John H. Dalton to intercede and keep the X-22 in Western New York.

A similar request in 1994 led Dalton to rescind an order to move the copter at that time.

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