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Kennedy flame to receive upgrades

President John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame will undergo an upgrade to replace parts that are malfunctioning and make it more energy efficient and easier to maintain.

The President John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame will undergo an upgrade to replace parts that are malfunctioning and make it more energy efficient and easier to maintain. The flame has been in place since 1967 and is down to its last of three specially designed burners. (U.S. Army photo/Kerry Solan)

Story by Patrick Bloodgood

The Norfolk District awarded a Maryland company on Jan. 31 a contract to upgrade the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery.

Meltech Corporation Inc. of Landover, Md., will be responsible for performing the approximately $350,000 upgrade to the flame in early spring.

“The current flame, which was installed 1967 is experiencing malfunctions,” said Kathryn A. Condon, executive director for Arlington National Cemetery. “This repair will ensure that the Eternal Flame remains the iconic symbol for all who come to visit this national treasure for generations to come.”

The contractor will install automated controls and a more energy-efficient system than what is currently used. The work is expected to begin mid-to-late February and take approximately 90 days to complete.

“The contactor will run new electrical conduit and cable, as well as new gas lines, relocate gas pressure regulators from inside to outside the vault to provide easier maintenance and access, and fabricate new burner assemblies that are naturally aspirated to reduce maintenance and utility costs, ” said Suzanne Spence, Norfolk District project manager who is overseeing the project.

While the burner itself is replaced, a temporary flame will be installed, which marks the second time a temporary flame has been used at the site. The first time was Nov. 25, 1963, as President Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington: a modified propane fueled tiki torch was used until the permanent flame was installed.

No changes are being made to the gravesite itself. Visitors to the site will see white fencing to cordon off the area while construction workers perform the work. The foot stones of President Kennedy and his family will be visible during the upgrade work.

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