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Virginia is full of rich military history. The Military Aviation Museum in VA Beach, Virginia is a great way to learn about that history. The Aviation Museum is designed to educate the public and encourage interaction with some of history’s most important aircraft.

History of the Military Aviation Museum

The heart of the Military Aviation Museum is the collection formed by Gerald and Elaine Yagen, local residents of Virginia Beach and founders of Tidewater Tech, which is today the Centura College.

Yagen was an aviation pilot for many years but never served in the military. His flights were civilian, and he spent years flying his corporate twin-engine Piper Aerostar aircraft. In 1994, Yagen was at the annual convention for fellow Aerostar aircraft owners in Canada. During the event, he attended a dinner dance amongst the events historic airplanes. Before the dance, he located a B-17 bomber uniform and he and Elaine came dressed as a wartime couple. During that evening, Gerald decided to buy one of the events historic aircraft to fly over Virginia Beach on the weekends.

Not shortly after, he began his search for a World War II aircraft to purchase. However, his search pulled up few results, and he quickly realized it would be difficult to find what he was looking for. He eventually bought the remains of a Curtiss P-40E Warhawk which he recovered from the Arctic Circle from a Russian mission. During their heyday, the aircraft transported items from New York to the Middle East. The airplane that Gerald bought was shot down during the defense of the far northern seaport of Murmansk.

During the same time, a second aircraft was found in Yagen’s hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia. He heard that a Chance Vought Corsair fighter plane was being restored in the Bay Island neighborhood. The aircraft was disassembled before being brought to the private residence and was originally on display at the War Memorial Museum in Newport. It had flown off the Intrepid aircraft carrier during the battle of Okinawa in the Second World War.

After buying the aircraft, Gerald decided to first restore the Curtiss P-40. He paid for the restoration while continuing his search for the parts he would need to have the job completed. At the time, the aircraft was 50 years old, which meant the hunt for parts would not be easy. Two years later, and the restoration was complete and its first test flight happened at the Easter air show of Omaka on South Island in New Zeland where the restoration was completed.

Of course, Yagen had to take extensive flying lessons to learn how to fly and land a tailwheel airplane. Over the years, he continued to build his collection of aircraft, and today you can see the collection for yourself at the Military Aviation Museum. Explore the WWI, Cottbus German Hanger & Fighter Factory on self-guided tours every day starting at 10:30 until 3 pm.

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