For aviation enthusiasts, museums are important meeting places. Regardless of whether the interest relates to technical or historical issues or whether it is a specific aircraft type a modeller is looking for destinctive details, in an Aviation Museum everybody will find what he/she is looking for. In almost every country you can find at least a museum with many rare and interesting exhibits. If you then visit one of these museums, a widely expected following scenario might wait for you: hardly a single piece of the museum is in mint, airworthy condition, everything is crammed into a relatively small space. The lighting is quite poor, limited accessibility is another issue. Due to a lack of money (a global problem) only limited work can be donewhen restoring these rare aircraft. Another problem is not really comprehensible, in some museums, the paintjob done on the aircraft is a disaster. In an effort to make the exhibits more striking and interesting, the wrong color pot is used quite often. Even when trying to apply the original painting, often something seriously goes wrong (see the Technik Museum Berlin / Junkers Ju-88G). In many institutions there is also an outdoor area where the aircraft are most exposed to the weather conditions and vulnerable and therefore subject to rapid deterioration (eg Luftwaffenmuseum Gatow).
Such or similar deficiencies may one possibly expect when planning a visit to the MILITARY AVIATION MUSEUM at Virginia Beach / USA. What you get to see there will definitely exceed all expectations. All aircraft, with only one exception (Bell P-63 KING COBRA) are in perfect airworthy condition and housed in clean, light-flooded hangars. The painting and markings of the planes corresponding to (again with a few exceptions like the Junkers / CASA 352 or the B-25J) exactly the original, and with some luck, you can even see the one or other aircraft doing a flying display. This magnificent collection was founded by the German-born businessman Gerald "Jerry" Yagen, who made his dreams come true. He is supported by a few employees and countless volunteers, without them the smooth operation of this magnificent facility would be unthinkable. On the question, how a private person becomes the owner of such a remarkable collection and a private museum, Mr. Yagen responds with a mischievous smile: "It is very simple - piece by piece!"
Special attention was paid to the design of the main building and the hangars of the museum. The main building (where the mass of the WW II aircraft is stored) was built in the style of the 1930s, the hangar with the exhibits from the First World War is also inspired by a building from the same time, the architect was using some footage from this time-oriented, but began to implement the latest materials and technologies. Perhaps the most interesting building is an original Luftwaffe hangar from Cottbus which is currently under reconstruction. This is restored in painstaking detail work, and will possibly serve later as a shelter for a variety of the museums Luftwaffe aircraft. Regarding to Luftwaffe aircraft, the museum developed into a paradise.
A Focke Wulf FW 190A as well as the Messerschmitt Me 262B are replicas, the Junkers Ju 52/3m is a Spanish license built (CASA 352) and the Buecker Bu-133 is originally from Switzerland. Also, the Fieseler Fi-156 Storch was manufactured in France and later converted by the German company Meyer Motors Ltd. into a Luftwaffe aircraft. A current project promises to be a real sensation - the airworthy restoration of an FW 190 D-9 powered by an original Junkers Jumo 213 engine. This project will take place this year and is also carried out by Meyer Motors. Just the thought of seeing a long-nose Dora in flight, causes great joy to many fans around the world. Another project that is nearing completion is the restoration of a de Havilland DH 98 Mosquito FB.Mk26. This famous fighter/bomber, also called the "Wooden Wonder" was designed by Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, is currently rebuilt by the company AvSpec in New Zealand using many original parts. In the near future it will also join to the museum in Virginia Beach. Since there is not a single airworthy Mosquito available anywhere in this world, not only Jerry Yagen and his crew eagerly awaiting this new addition.
The largest machine in the collection is the Boeing B-17G "Chuckie" (built in 1944). This makes it one of only 13 airworthy aircraft of this type worldwide and the only one which was originally built as a pathfinder. In addition to the four-engined FLYING FORTRESS, the museum also owns a North American B-25J Mitchell with the pithy name of "Wild Cargo". In contrast to the aircrafts nose art, showing a scantily clad woman in a cage (and thus stimulates the imagination of one or other observer), this name has a real background, which has absolutely nothing to do with a military use of this twin-engine bomber. In the early 1960s the B-25 was used as a cargo plane owned by a civilian company. In one of its contract flight, it made a wheels-up emergency landing. The recovery of the B-25 was a bit difficult as the cargo consisted of 2,000! snakes plus 4 alligators! At the time of the crash the B-25 was demilitarized and had only a natural metal paint. After its restoration it was decided to apply a standard USAAF olive drap color scheme, and it was christened with the name "Wild Cargo". Thus, the B-25 is the collections only World War II aircraft with a fictitious collection of painting / naming, but still with an interesting background story. Particularly noteworthy is the variety of the collection. There is no real key aspect in case of the Nationality or origin of the aircraft. British, Russian and American fighter planes from World War II lined up peacefully alongside their former enemies of Germany and Japan. The only Japanese aircraft (Navy Aichi D-3A1 99 VAL) is however, a replica, which was specifically converted from a Vultee BT-13A for the Hollywood movie TORA, TORA, TORA (Twentieth Century Fox, 1970). The Yakovlev Yak-3M is a new built, where an Allison V-1710 twelve-cylinder V-engine was installed in place of the original Klimov WK-105PF engine. This has a similar performance as the original engine, but is considerably more reliable (also sufficient spare parts are available, which would be a big problem with the original brand).
Another Russian origin are three real highlights. The Polikarpov I-15bis, an I- 153 and an I-16 were detected in rugged terrain in northern Russia in the 1990s and then restored to airworthy condition. Until 1999, these legendary fighters were owned by the ALPINE FIGHTER COLLECTION in New Zealand before being sold. On this aircraft one can be clearly see the development of fighter aircraft in the 1930s from the biplane with fixed landing gear (I-15bis) to the modern monoplane with retractable landing gear (I-16). The I-15bis as well as the I-16 were deployed in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side and also played a major role together with the I-153 in the Russo-Japanese border conflict in Mongolia (the so-called Khalkhin Gol or Nomonhan conflict). Although at the beginning of World War II already outdated the fighters from the Polikarpov OKB (design bureau) were still in frontline service until the middle of 1943. The best known model, the I-16 (I stands for Istrebitel, in English: Fighter/Interceptor) was christened RATA (rat) by the National Spanish and later also by the Germans, the Republicans called it MOSCA (fly) and the Russian pilots gave it the inglorious name Ishak (donkey). These names do definitely not pay tribute to this small, squat aircraft, which has its place in the history of aviation.
Naturally, the museum also boasts an impressive number of US-American machines, like a beautifully restored Curtiss P-40E WARHAWK in the colours of the former FLYING TIGERS (AVG = American Volunteer Group) pilot Tex Hill , a Vought FG-1D CORSAIR or a Grumman FM-2 WILDCAT. A special highlight is a replica of a Boeing P-26D PEASHOOTER. This single-seat fighter from the 1930ies impresses with its colorful paint scheme (1st Pursuit Squadron Group/94th Pursuit).
A visit to the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach is highly recommended. There are, beside the above mentioned airworthy exhibits, also a few real "museum pieces, such as a Fieseler Fi-103 flying bomb (V-1), some aircraft engines, an original Anti-Aircraft Artillery 88mm Flak 36, and a few vehicles from World War II. Once a year (usually early May) a small air show is held. So if you want to visit this magnificent museum, it is a good idea to plan your stay then!
Robert Kysela, CHK6
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