NEW COURSE IS SET FOR FLIGHT MUSEUM
Collection to leave Galveston for Ellington, where science will join history
GALVESTON — Larry Gregory recognized the distinctive sputter of the T-6 Texan well before the sunflower yellow aircraft roared into sight, swooping toward Galveston’s West Bay in one of its last island flights.
The president of the Lone Star Flight Museum came to know the peculiarities of the World War II trainer plane during countless trips over the bay as he showed visitors the view from inside some of the nation’s oldest warplanes. They’ve lived in a hangar at Scholes International Airport for nearly 30 years, and soon, they’ll all make a one-way trip to the mainland.
“It’s a bittersweet day,” Gregory said. “I’ll miss being a tour guide over Galveston.”
The flight museum opened for the last time on Saturday with free exhibits and flight raffles that drew hundreds of families and nostalgic oldtimers inside the cavernous space. In a matter of weeks, its roughly 40 historic planes will relocate to a new $38 million facility set to open on Labor Day weekend at Houston’s Ellington Airport.
The relocation is a twopronged effort to protect the museum’s collection from the storms that periodically sweep the island and modernize its appeal by offering programs involving science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. For example, the new museum will have classes in aerodynamics and flight science, bringing them to life with a flight simulator. The goal:
excite a younger generation about the possibilities of STEM careers.
“Telling a group of 4-year-olds that a plane weighs 25,000 pounds is interesting, but it does nothing for them,” Gregory said. “Putting it in terms they can understand is key.”
Museum executives decided to relocate the collection shortly after Hurricane Ike flooded the Galveston hangar in 2008, damaging some of the planes. Many parts, designed for aircraft built decades ago, proved difficult to replace through modern suppliers.
Almost all the planes are still in working condition. They’ll fly together next month to the new facility, where they will occupy two 30,000-squarefoot hangars.
As in Galveston, the museum will still offer flying tours and exhibits centered on Texas aviation history.
On Saturday, visitors marveled at the massive aircraft and squinted at the small plaques that outlined their historical significance. Some came to reminisce, wearing Air Force ball caps and patriotic shirts in the shadow of planes that fought in Europe, the Soviet Union and Asia in last century’s major conflicts.
Don Westmoreland, a longtime Galveston resident, recalled riding his motorcycle to see the museum’s planes fly in when it was first constructed in 1990. His favorites were the bombers, the B-17 and the B-25 models that served World War II aviators.
“It was a labor of love, for sure,” he said. “They’ve really built it up over the years.”
For Charlie Finn, a Texas City resident, the planes reminded him of his time in the Navy, when he worked on F-4 Phantoms as an electrical technician in the 1960s. He later got a pilot’s license and a plane of his own, which he flew out of William P. Hobby airport before it became a commercial hub for Southwest Airlines.
He’s visited the museum frequently over the years, often with friends who got a similar thrill out of learning what some of the earliest planes could do.
“We would walk around dreaming dreams,” he said.
Brandon Landry carries his 2-year-old son, Jack, in front of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress at the Lone Star Flight Museum.
A T-6 Texan, part of the Lone Star Flight Museum, takes one of its last flights over Galveston on Saturday.
Capt. Kevin McGowan, right, gives Steve Giesler instructions before his flight in a T-6 Texan at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston. The museum is relocating to Houston and hosted a farewell event on Saturday.