Air museum preparing for annual open house

GRAND CHAMPION . The award-winning 1928 American Eagle Model A-101 was one of the first airplanes donated to the Wings of History Air Museum. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

Stinson Relian SR-9. Vickers Viscount. Christen Eagle. Bowlus BA-100 Baby Albatross.

Aviation enthusiasts know those names. And there is a place in San Martin where those are  just a fraction of the antique airplanes on display.

The Wings of History Air Museum, located at 12777 Murphy Ave. adjacent to the San Martin Airport, features three large hangars filled to the brim with airplanes on the ground, hanging on the ceiling, and in various stages of construction, with more than 25 full-size aircraft and over 100 models. It is also home to a Federal Aviation Administration-approved wood propeller repair shop, a library, gift shop and more.

The volunteer-run non-profit museum is preparing for its largest fundraising event of the year, Aviation Day, on May 18, 8am-3pm.

The event includes free airplane rides for children ages 8-17, provided by EAA Chapter 62, as well as model aircraft demos, tethered hot air balloon rides, food trucks, music and more.

New this year, the event will debut the museum’s “Drone Zone,” a covered area that features a miniature city where pilots will have to navigate their drones through a series of obstacles and landing spots.

Susan Talbot, the museum’s treasurer, said the annual event, now in its 19th year, typically attracts a couple thousand people.

“Aviation Day is our main fundraiser,” she said. “We hope to raise a few thousand dollars.”

Standing tall next to the entrance of the Jeannie Lamb Memorial Hangar is the cockpit of the 1950s-era Vickers Viscount passenger jet, which visitors can climb into and sit in the pilot’s seat. The Viscount is known as the first commercial airliner to use turboprop power, and could carry up to 65 passengers.

Wings of History also displays a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, which was originally built for Irv Perch, owner of the former Morgan Hill restaurant The Flying Lady. The replica was eventually donated to the museum, which is how the museum gained most of its collection.

“Everything we have is either given to us or on loan,” Talbot said.

The display also includes a miniature functional wind tunnel modeled after the Wright Brothers’ experiments.

Among the collection are displays of antique aircraft engines, include a 90-horsepower Lambert Aircraft Engine, manufactured in 1935. The engine was designed for Monocoupes and built by the Mono Aircraft Corporation.

One of the first airplanes donated to the museum was a 1928 American Eagle Model A-101, which was restored in 1962 and received Grand Champion status at the 1966 Watsonville Fly-In and Airshow. The aircraft is still air-worthy, Talbot said, but is in need of some engine repairs.

Wings of History is also home to the only FAA-approved wooden propeller repair station on the West Coast, and also manufactures propellers to customer specifications.

The museum got its start in 1975, when its founders raised enough money to purchase a few acres of land in San Martin. Despite its long history, many people, including locals, still don’t know it exists, said museum president Ed Stricker.

“We constantly get people in here that say, “I didn’t know this place was here,’” he said.

Being a non-profit, the museum is always in need of volunteers, Talbot said, to help restore planes, work in the office and other duties.

“We have lots of needs,” she said.

Aviation Day is a chance for volunteers to promote the museum to the community, and help it continue to operate for years to come.

“We’d like to increase attendance as much as possible, not just for the open house but in general,” Stricker said.

Aviation Day at the Wings of History Air Museum will be held May 18, 8am-3pm. Suggested donation is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and children ages 13-17, $5 for children ages 6-12 and free for children 5 and under.

The museum is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-3pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-4pm. For information, visit www.wingsofhistory.org or call 683.2290.

Erik Chalhoub

Erik Chalhoub is the editor of South Valley. Prior to joining the magazine in March 2019, he worked for seven years at The Pajaronian in Watsonville, the last four as managing editor.
Erik Chalhoub

Latest posts by Erik Chalhoub (see all)

About Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub is the editor of South Valley. Prior to joining the magazine in March 2019, he worked for seven years at The Pajaronian in Watsonville, the last four as managing editor.