Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Palm Springs Air Museum gains rare aircraft Palm Springs Air Museum gains rare aircraft

A Russian MIG 21, built in Czechoslovakia and flew during the Vietnam War, was delivered to the Palm Springs Air Museum and will be a new addition to the permanent collection.

A Cold War-era Russian MiG-21 supersonic jet fighter and a U.S. T-28 Trojan military trainer are the latest additions to the Palm Springs Air Museum's collection of vintage airplanes.

The MiG-21 was disassembled into sections — body, tail and wings — and brought Monday from Thermal on two flatbed trucks.

The fuselage was lifted off a truck by a huge crane as Dick Hunter, the man who orchestrated the donation, looked on with a big smile.

Hunter, a museum volunteer, talked about how fortunate he was to come across the “dream” find.

“I was just at the Jacqueline Cochran Airport in Thermal, and this plane was sitting there,” Hunter said. “I sat there and stared at it for 20 minutes.”

Then a man approached Hunter, handed him a cell phone, and the woman on the line told Hunter she wanted to donate it to the air museum.

“She said, ‘I've tried six other places, but no one wanted the plane,'” Hunter said.

The MiG-21, valued at $65,000, was donated by Libuse “Lilly” Hornak, widow of Stefan Hornak, an MiG collector and owner and founder of Aviation Museum Inc. of Thermal.

After her husband's death, she married Vladimir Hnateck, an airplane mechanic who worked in Aero Vodochody, the Czechoslovakian factory that made many of the MiG planes.

The fighter plane is the first enemy aircraft acquired by the museum.

“Its heyday was in the late '60s, early '70s,” said Fred Bell, vice president of the Palm Springs Air Museum board of directors. “It was a potent adversary against the F-4 Phantom in Vietnam.”

The MiG-21, once reassembled, will be displayed next to the F-4 Phantom in front of the air museum.

The aircraft is the second in less than a week to be added to the museum's 30-plus plane collection.

On Wednesday, Chuck Daubenberger, owner of Da/Pro Rubber Inc. based out of Valencia, donated a T-28 trainer.

The piston-engine North American Aviation T-28 Trojan, first put in use in the 1950s, is used as a trainer by the U.S. Air Force and Navy, but also was used in counter-insurgency, primarily during the Vietnam War.

“The addition of the T-28 allows us to expand our collection beyond World War II aircraft, and to continue to tell the story of aviation throughout modern history,” Bell said.

“It couldn't find a better home,” Daubenberger said.

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