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Valiant Air Command Museum

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Located just a few miles west of Kennedy Space Center at the Space Coast Regional Airport, near Titusville, Florida, the Valiant Air Command Warbird museum offers a unique view of aviation history. Staffed and operated almost entirely by volunteers, the museum rivals commercial and government aviation museums.

In the late seventies, some friends (who shared a passion for aviation and its beginnings) had a vision of a permanent home for vintage warplanes and memorabilia associated with them -- uniforms, flags, pictures, medals, plaques, insignia(s), photos. commendations, ordinance -- anything to do with the growth history and culture of aviation from WWI to now.

The museum offers a myriad of aircraft types and memorabilia -- from many sources. Aircraft such as the F-14 Tomcat, F-4 Phantom, F-86 Sabre, MiG -15, UH-1 Huey, Grumman Wildcat and Avenger, a C-47 Skytrain and many others from WWII, the Korean Conflict, Viet Nam and the first Gulf War are on display. A treat awaits aviation enthusiasts of all ages.

Visitors usually go through the Memorabilia Hall first. There they see cavalry-style uniforms action worn by America’s first air aces of WWI. A painting of a British Spitfire in the Battle of Britain autographed by all the squadron’s pilot, recalls a lot of memories. Actual Japanese Battle flags and German aviators’ medals can be seen in the neat display cases that fill the hall. Hundreds of models, representing all the protagonists in the Air Wars of the 20th Century, are displayed in many styles and sizes. The wealth of memorabilia is a tribute to the generosity and of the many friends of the Museum.

Flight gear, dress uniforms and personal artifacts from flight crews of all the aerial conflicts are displayed throughout the hall. A restored Link Trainer is on display and brings back many (un)fond memories from aviators of the 40s, 50s and 60s. The Museum’s historians and curators work constantly to make sure the scenes exhibited are both interesting and historically correct. They are often excited to receive information and assistance from visitors who actually witnessed an aviation event, which has been recreated in the museum. Current special exhibits include a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, a crack all black fighter group of WWII and a display of a current US Navy Carrier Battle Group supplied by the Association of Naval Aviation, Banana River Squadron.

Moving from the Memorabilia Hall to main exhibition hangar you will be overwhelmed by the vision of vintage warbirds that awaits. As you enter you will immediately see an F-14 sitting beside a Tiger Moth; there’s Korean War aircraft such as the F-86, MiG-15, T-33 and Navy Panther. Vietnam aircraft include the F-4 Phantom, F-8 Crusader, UH-1, A-6, F-105 and many others. WWII aircraft include a B-25, Grumman Wildcat and Avengers, ME-208 and others. The visitor gets not only an “eye full” but also an “ear full” as experienced tour guides (many of them combat aviators) provide an interesting backdrop to exhibits and displays. It is easy to see how crowded this hangar has become. In fact, additional aircraft donation are being turned down, but there’s great news for the Valiant Air Command. A new hangar is being built that will allow for even more vintage warbirds. This new hangar will be dedicated to “honoring the memory” of those that served and sacrificed in the Vietnam War and will house the Vietnam collection of aircraft and memorabilia; freeing additional space in the main hangar.

From the main exhibition hangar it’s on to the restoration hanger where one gets the feeling of moving through time. The VAC’s flagship, a 1942 C-47 that dropped paratroopers in Europe on D-Day sits combat ready. When asked to name the most significant weapons of World War II, General Dwight Eisenhower supposedly listed the atomic bomb, the jeep, the bazooka and the Douglas C-47. After supporting many battles during WWII and with the successful breaking of the Berlin Blockade our aircraft was no longer needed by the United States and in 1950 the Norwegian Air Force took delivery of her, as part of the lend-lease program. In 1956 she was transferred to the Royal Danish Air Force, where her duty assignment was to transport the Royal Family of Denmark. In 1982 with over 13,500 flying hours, the Royal Danish Air Force finally retired her and today, The “Tico Belle” is a proud representative of this hallowed era and can be seen at her home base at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum where she continues to educate the public some 65 years after D-day. Contact the museum to take a ride in this great warbird.

Probably one the most remarkable restoration projects for the museum was a Grumman Wildcat fighter from WWII, which lost power and went into Lake Michigan in 1944. The pilot was rescued, but the aircraft remained on the bottom of the lake some 48 years, until 1994, when it was hauled out and brought to the museum for restoration. Both the pilot and Coast Guard rescuer were located and have visited the museum. Restoration was by a dedicated group known as ‘The Grumman Gremlins.” They spent more than 30,000 man-hours on this restoration.

The biggest attraction for the Valiant Air Command is its annual Warbird Airshow held each year in March. If you are in the area, this is something you definitely have to see to believe. Vintage warbirds are on exhibit and flying demonstrations and formations. Visitors are allowed to get right next to them on the flight line over the annual three day show. Many of the pilots and museum aircraft historians take up position next to their planes to answer questions -- everything from a B-25 Mitchell Bomber, to the P-51 Mustang to the sleek 1400 mile an hour F-104 Starfighter and many, many more. Finally, twice a year, on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, the Valiant Air Command offers a free open house for all Brevard County residents and any military; active or retired. These are special occasions when the museum offers the opportunity to show off who we are and what we do.

The museum is located at 6600 TICO Road, Titusville, FL 32780. The phone number is 268-1941 and the website is www.vacwarbirds.org. It is open from 9AM-5PM, 7 days a week. Whether you are vacationing or live in the area, this is must stop for the whole family. Come in, take a tour -- and become a part of history!

March/April 2011 Aviators Hot Line WARBIRDS

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