Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mount Pleasant, Texas: Man brings 30 years of history to hometown

MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas—After spending nearly 20 years amassing 42 historic airplanes, local Scott Glover is bringing 30 years of aviation history to his hometown.

Since 1996, Glover has collected military and non-military aircraft, which now form the recently completed Mid-America Flight Museum. The museum is near Mount Pleasant Regional Airport, on the city's south side.

Chartered in 2013, the museum's collection consists of airplanes built between the years 1925 and 1955.

"All the planes are flyable; we have no static displays," Glover said. "There are a lot of beautiful aviation museums across the country that have their own mission. Our museum differentiates itself from many other museums in that a great majority of our airplanes fly on a regular basis. We also have ongoing restoration projects."

The museum's mission is four-fold: honor military veterans, preserve aviation history, provide a chance for community involvement and mentor youth.

"Veterans unselfishly gave so much that give(s) us the freedom to do what we do," the museum's website states."

Since the museum features flyable aircraft, if frequently provides free plane rides to veterans and their families.

"Recognizing veterans and their families is a way of showing our appreciation for their sacrifices," the website states.

Since receiving its charter back in fall 2013, the museum has given more than 600 free airplane rides to veterans and their families—and that was just in 2014 alone.

"Money can't buy the joy you see in their eyes when flying in one of these historic planes," the museum's website states. "For a brief moment, a World War II veteran forgets that he or she is 90 years old, as the flight brings back memories they had in their late teens or early 20s."

Besides honoring veterans, restoring vintage aircraft allows the museum to actively preserve aviation history.

"Multiple factors, including the expense of maintaining these historic airplanes, have caused many aviation museums to put out only static aircraft," the museum's website states. "It's our belief that all aircraft were built to fly, and that is what people want to see.

"Taking an old airplane that most everyone else has given up on and restoring it back to flying condition is extremely rewarding. People just aren't building anymore planes like these, so it's our goal to be good stewards of the resources we have to keep these birds flying."

The museum's war bird collection includes an Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell twin-engine medium bomber, a P-51 Mustang fighter and a Navy and Marine Corps F4U Corsair fighter. There even is a twin-engine USAAF C-47 Skytrain cargo and troop carrier transport, also known as a DC-3.

The museum's C-47 went into Army Air Force service Feb. 11, 1943, and became assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Squadron on May 4. The troop carrier-cargo transport then flew to Morrison Army Air Field in West Palm Beach, Fla., before heading to North Africa. Once in North Africa, the plane was piloted by Army Lt. Donald E. King, known as "Sky King," throughout the war in Europe.

King's son, Kevin King, provided the museum with a detailed diary of the missions his dad flew, including two paratroop drops during Operation Husky (the invasion of Sicily) on July 10, 1943. The plane made two more drops over Italy between late 1943 and 1944.

The elder King also successfully dropped 18 paratroopers during the D-Day invasion of France, June 6, 1944, as well as participated in a drop over Holland during Operation Market Garden in September 1944.

The museum's B-25, named God and Country, was built at North American Aviation's Kansas City aircraft plant in 1944 and went into AAF service March 1, 1945. It was moved to Turner Army Air Field in Georgia, where it stayed in storage through 1946, never to be deployed overseas. It later was dispatched to Scott Field in Illinois in April 1947 for an 11-year storage.

A Washington State-based commercial air service eventually bought the plane in 1958, before selling it to another commercial air service in Santa Ana, Calif., where it was used in several movies, such as 1970's "Catch 22." In 1986, it was sold to a private aviation firm in Dover, Del., which sold the bomber to World Jet Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

By late 2002, the B-25 was acquired by Pacific Prowler, which sold it to Mid-America Flight Museum in the fall 2013.

As for fighter planes, Glover has managed to collect one of the most well-recognized American warplanes of World War II—the P-51 Mustang. The prototype of the iconic warbird flew Oct. 26, 1940, with a total of 15,586 built between November 1943 and August 1945. About 155 Mustangs collected throughout the world still fly.

Army Col. Thomas Christian Jr. of Sulphur Springs, Texas, who commanded the 361st Fighter Squadron stationed in Europe, flew a P-51 similar to the one at the museum. Christian died March 8, 1944, while attacking a railroad marshalling yard in France.

The museum's F4U Corsair, built by the Chance-Vought company in Dallas, saw service in World War II and the Korean War. The Corsair, which took its first flight in 1940, was one the most-used of any piston engine aircraft in U.S. history. Initially designed to be an aircraft carrier-based fighter plane, the Corsair's design made carrier landing difficult for pilots. Until the landing issues were corrected, the Navy handed the Corsair over to Marine Corps fighter pilots, who put the Corsair to use as an effective land-based fighter.

Japanese pilots reportedly regarded the Corsair as the most formidable American fighter of World War II, since it had an 11-to-1 kill ratio.

The museum's civilian aircraft include a 1932 Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing—an American biplane with non-traditional negative stagger, meaning its lower wing was longer than the upper wing. Aircraft company executive Walter H. Beech and aircraft designer T.A. "Ted" Wells built the Beechcraft to be a large, powerful and fast cabin biplane, specifically for use by business executives. Its first flight was in November 1932, during the darkest days of the Great Depression, the Beechcraft became the product of a collaboration between

Other early civilian aircraft include:

1925 Waco Nine, a fabric-built, three-seat, open-cockpit bi-plane,

1929 Ford Tri-Motor three-engine, all-metal, passenger plane and

1928 Curtis-Robin high-winged monoplane.

A couple of the museum's post-war aircraft include a 1949 North American T-28 Trojan, a piston-engine military pilot trainer used by the Navy and Air Force; and a Lockheed Constellation Columbine II similar to the one used by President Eisenhower as Air Force One.

Preserving aviation history can and frequently does provide a chance for community involvement in current and ongoing aircraft restoration projects, particularly for retired senior adults looking for something interesting to do.

"Mid-America Flight Museum offers people who want to get involved the chance to continue to expand their knowledge base in aviation and serve the community at the same time," the website states.

Presently, the museum has multiple aircraft restoration projects in the works that provide hours of fun and educational fellowship with other people in the community.

"Making friends, preserving history and mentoring (are) very rewarding, and folks that help with the museum will get to participate in the museum's flying events throughout the year," the website states.

Finally, when it comes to mentoring, the museum likes to attract children interested in flight, as well as retired senior adults who happen to be aircraft restoration enthusiasts.

"People of all ages and especially kids, are fascinated by flight," the website states. "Aviation provides kids a chance to be part of something that will stay with them for life. Some kids might learn how to fly and use the skill for either pleasure or personal transportation, while others might seek a career in flying for either the military, private corporations or for the commercial passenger airlines."

The museum is housed in six hangars—three of which are rented from the city. The larger hanger was built by R.B Narramore Associates construction firm.

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