TITUSVILLE, Fla. – It’s considered one of the largest aircraft collections on the East coast: The Valiant Air Command Warbird Air museum located on the Space Coast.
The museum offers some historical aviation stories prior to WWI and post WWII and related to the Korean and Vietnam wars.
“We have an airplane that flew in 1907, it looks much like the original Wright brothers flyer,” Ron Davis, a Vietnam war veteran said. “We have airplanes that are still in active service in the United States armed services.”
Davis is also a volunteer curator for the museum, which was founded in 1977 by 12 pilots of vintage aircraft.
“Some of these airplanes were donated to us. This one, the OV 10, is a Vietnam era design,” Davis said.
The restoration hangar, is one of three hangars that houses vintage aircraft once used for combat.
"In the back two Huey hangers-- the absolute personification of Vietnam history. We're bringing one up to flyable standards," he said. "It literally was how they fought the Vietnam war, taking helicopters in."
Located at the Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, the museum has a collection of warbirds, artifacts and memorabilia.
It’s a place that prides itself in preserving the heritage of America’s bravest. Among their aircraft collection is an A-4 Skyhawk, like the one Sen. John McCain flew when he was shot down in 1967. The plane they have on site was part of the Blue Angels team and used in 1973 and 1974.
They also have on display a military transport aircraft called Tico Belle.
“Tico Belle is our flagship, she was a 1942 built Douglas C-47 transport and that was the most widely produced transport probably in history,” Davis said. “She flew in the D-Day landings in Normandy June the 6th.”
Today, Tico Belle attends air shows and is used for sightseeing tours around the Space Coast. It can go up to 135 miles an hour.
Davis said his favorite is an F-11 Navy jet, which has the mouth of a shark painted on its fuselage.
“It’s called the Tiger. It is just post-Korean War, about 1954. It is as graceful a jet airplane as you will ever find. I would compare it to the Saber jet,” he said.
Among the almost 50 aircraft at the museum is a Tomkat fighter jet, also known as an F-14. It’s the type of aircraft used by Tom Cruise in the first “Top Gun” movie.
The museum’s latest addition is a one-of-a-kind aircraft. It’s the first XP-82 twin mustang flown in April 1945, a design created to escort B-29′s from the Pacific to bomb Japan.
“The engines are 12-cylinder piston engines, they’re called Rolls-Royce Merlins,” the veteran said. “They’re about 1,800 horse power each, the propellers counter rotate.”
Davis said they’re not just passionate about honoring the past, but also educating the future--which is why they teamed up with Brevard County’s school board.
“The idea with STEM is not make it an academic exercise only where it looks like homework. You can come in here as a student, take the things you’re learning in school and we’ll give you a practical application,” he said.
The museum is open every day from 9 p.m. to 5 pm. except on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
In April, the Valiant Air Command Museum will be offering clinics for Boys and Girl Scouts of America who are part of the Aviation Merit Badge. There will be pilots and aviation experts on site teaching the class at no cost. Limited space is available.
Registration beings March 14. Application forms can be found here.