From WW1 onwards, aviation has been an integral part of fighting wars. Everything from bombers to fighters play a role in how a modern war is fought… but what happens when these wars end, when the planes retire from service and the military is no longer maintaining them. How will the legacy of the pilots who flew them live on?… The legacy of what was fought and why? The Answer? Museums, like the one we will be talking about today… the military aviation museum.
The military aviation museum is located in Virginia Beach and is one of the largest private war birds collection. The museum has around 70 operational planes in its hangars. How did such a collection come about? According to militaryaviationmuseum.org, in 1994, Gerald Yeagan was at a convention for Aerostar aircraft owners. One evening Gerald and his wife, Elaine, went to a dinner dance amongst many historic planes. That night Gerald decided that it would be exciting to acquire one of these aircraft for himself. It didn’t take long for him to realize that these aircraft are difficult and expensive to buy. He eventually settled on a wrecked Curtiss P-40E Warhawk that was recovered from the arctic circle in Russia. Gerald soon struck a deal with the owner, then the plane was off to restoration. In the mean time Yeagen heard of a rare Chance Vought Corsair fighter plane. It was being stored in its owners backyard disassembled. Even though it was disassembled most of the pieces were there. This specific plane was flown off of the Interepid aircraft carrier during the battle of Okinawa in WWII. Yeagen decided to finish the restoration of the first plane before attending to the second one. He had to take many trips all over the world to source parts for this vintage airplane. On one of these such trips Yeagen learned of a team that was reconstruction their own P-40 and had already created and fabricated many of the needed parts and jigs to build the plane. He then decided to ship his P-40 to get it restored there.
To fly a tail wheel plane Yeagen had to find a military training aircraft. He settled on a Stearman bi-plane from Texas. These aircraft were build by Boeing during WWII for flight training purposes. This plane in particular had already been restored to factory condition. This plane, however, was not heavy enough to prepare a tail wheel pilot for the speed of a real fighter plane. Because of the recent election of a new leader and the lift of an arms embargo on South Africa, they no longer needed all of their AT-6 training aircraft. Since all of these airplanes were being sold at the same time, it was pretty cheap for Yeagen. The plane Yeagen eventually bought had served as a mail and person carrier. Because it was never used for training so therefore was in better condition.
This was the start of the humongous collection Yeagen has today. 2 training aircraft and one fighter started one of the biggest military aviation museums in America.
What can you do at this museum? First off… the obvious… you can look at the incredible collection of aircraft exhibited there. The Military Aviation Museum also has many airshows to watch. You can check the calendar on their website(linked in the description) to see when these are happening. In addition to the exhibits, you can purchase rides on 1941 Boeing Stearman or 1989 Waco YMF-5. Finally, there is the “Jurassic Park” exhibit. This free exhibit shows a collection of dinosaur sculptures. Perfect for younger kids!
How much does everything cost? Entrance in to the museum costs
$15 for adults
$13 for Seniors(65+)
$12 for Active or retried military
And $7.50 for ages 6 to 17
Kids under 6 get free entry!
As for aircraft rides… a 15 minute ride on the Boeing Stearman will cost you $175 and a 30 minute ride costs $285. A 15 minute ride on the Waco YMF-5 is $235 and a 30 minute one is $375.
I hope you enjoyed our overview of the Military aviation museum! If you want to see more content like this, please consider subscribing and checking out our youtube channel. Until next time, this is Vincent Allen!