Today we drove back over to Virginia Beach to visit the Military Aviation Museum that we had scouted out yesterday.
I was surprised to find out the Museum is privately owned by Gerald Yeagan who also owns a company called The Fighter Factory that specializes in restoring and maintaining old military planes. He owns over 20 restored military planes with a number of others under restoration.
The complex consists of a museum area flanked by large hangers on each side, with an operating airfield out front.
Military Aviation Museum
Even the red checkered water tower is of WWII vintage.
The Museum had several interesting displays. Two planes caught my eye.
A replica 1911 Wright Flyer and a 1918 Sopwith Pup fighter were on display. These were remarkable due to the fact that we had just visited the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kill Devil Hill and had seen the 1903 Flyer.
The amazing thing was the quick progression of the planes.
The 1903 Flyer was very primitive, with the pilot lying prone on the wing next to the engine, steering by swinging his hips back and forth. The elevator is in the front of the plane and the engine is almost toy-like.
1903 Wright Flyer from the right rear
The 1911 Flyer was a big jump. The pilot sat in a chair, steered the plane with a control stick, and the elevator was in the front, all just like today’s planes.
1911 Wright Flyer
Note the 1911 Flyer has a much bigger engine and also landed on wheels, rather than skids like the 1903 version.
This 1911 Flyer was also used to make an intercontinental flight from New York to California to the win a $50,000 prize put up by William Randolph Hearst. This means that only 8 years after the first flight, man is now flying from one side of the country to the other.
But the real jump is this next plane, the 1918 Sopwith Pup.
1918 Sopwith Pup
In just 7 more years, we now have plane with a fully enclosed cockpit, engine, and fuselage, and, of course, machine guns, that can fly hundreds of miles in one flight.
And all this only 15 years after the first flight of 120 feet.
Quite a jump, indeed!
They sure have a lot of great planes here, and what’s really amazing is that they’re all in flyable condition, or being restored to flyable condition.
Here’s some of the best.
F4U Corsair of “Bah, Bah, Black Sheep” fame
F4U Corsair of "Bah, Bah, Black Sheep" fame
PBY Catalina Flying Boat
PBY Catalina Flying Boat
TBM Avenger Bomber – George H. W. Bush flew one like this.
TBM Avenger Bomber - George H. W. Bush flew one like this.
T-35 Mentor trainer – I had flight training in one of these.
T-34 Mentor trainer - I had flight training in one of these.
But the real treat was getting to see the P-40 Tomahawk fly! These big engines make a roar that is unmistakable.
Finally, I’ve shown you pictures of area mascot animals, like pelicans in Seabrook, TX, moose in Coeur d’ Alene, IA, and mermaids in Beaufort, SC.
Here in Virginia Beach they have a porpoise mascot, and the Museum did theirs up in a plane motif.
We had a great time at the Museum. And I’m really lucky to have married an Airforce brat who likes old planes and airshows.
After leaving the Museum, we stopped off at Supercuts to get our hair cut and then ate a late lunch at El Pollo Loco before heading home.
Later in the evening after it had cooled off, we sat out in the shade of the coach, looking out over the lake, drinking Sangria, and watching Mister do his “Catch and Release” program with the many blue dragonflies.
Or rather, it was ‘Catch, and then I yell at him until he reluctantly raises his paw and lets the dragonfly go – Release program. He never seemed to hurt them, but just held them down for a while.
What was really amazing is how fast a 22 pound cat can move.
Today is our last day here in NC. Tomorrow we move north to Williamsburg, VA.
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