Monday, December 12, 2016

Museum Notes: Fagen Fighters World War II Museum

Drive two and a half hours West of Minneapolis, and you’ll find the town of Granite Falls, population 2,819. It seems like a lot of other small farming communities in the Midwest, but Granite Falls hides a secret. Just a little past the city center is the airport, (KGDB), an untowered, 4,300 foot runway with a small FBO and a few hangers. Inside one of those hangers, is one of the last ten flying P-38s in the world. Another contains a beautifully restored and flying B-25N called Paper Doll. A third hanger holds restoration facilities where an SB2C-5 Helldiver is slowly being returned to flying shape, and one of only five flying JN-4 Jennys left.

The museum's Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, with their two gliders and the halftrack in the background.
Flight-worthy BT-13 and B-25N share hanger space with a
non-flying BF-109 and the museum's Holocaust exhibit.
It was a very cold day when my son and I made a visit to the Fagen Fighters World War II Museum. The prevailing wind blowing across the ramp pushed the perceived temperature into the negatives, and seemed to have kept most weekday visitors away. My son and I had the museum’s three separate hangers almost totally to ourselves. There’s something about a quiet hanger filled with working aircraft that gives a museum like Fagen, or Planes of Fame a different feeling than a regular aviation museum. Maybe it’s the smell of oil dripping from radial engines, maybe it’s the sense of potential: that these machines could awake from their slumber at any moment and hurtle skyward once again. It’s probably the oil.
CG4A cutaway

Aside from the P-38J, JN-4, and B-25N, Fagen is also home to a pair of flying P-51Ds; a P-40E and P-40K; an FM-2 Wildcat; PT-19, PT-22, PT-26, and BT-13 trainers, and an operational M4 Sherman tank. There’s a number of other military vehicles on display, and an amazing Waco CG4A Glider with one side cut-away to show how this aircraft was constructed.

If you’re close enough to make the drive, or are passing through the area on your way to somewhere, I highly recommend making plans to spend a few hours at this museum. Better still for pilots is the fly-in option. The FBO is small but comfortable, and the airport dog (because every good small airport FBO has a dog, right?) is a friendly fellow. Fly-in, grab a hundred-dollar hamburger in town, and spend the day walking among slumbering legends. Or, if you come on a better flying day than I did, maybe share the pattern with a few of them while they get some exercise.

No comments:

Post a Comment