AFTER OCEANA 2019 – “THE MILITARY AVIATION MUSEUM”
It was Sunday, September 22nd, 2019, in Virginia Beach. Yesterday, Saturday, was my last day at the 2019 NAS Oceana Air Show, always one of the best military shows in the United States. As I exited at 5:30 to the Hanger 404 Lot, I walked past the very last birds on the ramp before I hit the gate — a sea grey MH-60S Knighthawk (Seahawk) from VX-1 out of Pax and a Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-8 German WW2 restored fighter owned by Jerry Yagen. But little did I know that most ramp air shows, Oceana included, would be shut down for the next two summers due to the world- wide Covid-19 Pandemic. Oceana however did do a virtual live air show on YouTube in 2020.
So, as the sun rose over the hotels on the Beach on the next day, in 2019, Sunday, I made the tactical decision not to battle the 100,000 plane chasers that were expected when the gates opened to the public at 0900 on Sunday. I decided to abort my planned Sunday mission to go again to the flight line at NAS Oceana and decided rather to go about 10 miles south of the Base down Oceana Boulevard and head on down to Jerry Yagen’s “Military Avoation Museum” and see what was going on, and usually there is something going on at the MAM. After all, Jerry has over 70 WW1 and WW2 planes that mostly all fly, and Jerry has to keep these birds exercised so he and his crew like getting them up in the air once in a while.
So, I drove past the hordes of people trying to get into Oceana off of Oceana Boulevard, made the right turn south on to General Booth Boulevard (615), then took a left turn east on to Princess Ann Road and kept following 615 south for about five more miles, and then you see it rising above the tree line, a WW2 red and white checkered water tower. With that distinctive dead-reckoning navigation aid you know you found it — Jerry Yagen’s, what used to be called “The Fighter Factory” and is now known as “The Military Aviation Museum”. After a few trips down here I know what I have to watch out for before I make that fast right turn into MAM – it’s the large red five foot tall cylinder that is in fact a British Royal Mail Box that Jerry imported from London. Next, after you make that sharp right hand turn, you immediately see about eight fairly large grey Jurassic Park dinosaur statues by a small lake as you come in to what is officially named “The Virginia Beach Airport” (FAA LID 42 VA).
The Virginia Beach Airport is a grass strip that serves as the runway for Jerry Yagen’s collection of 70 flying warbirds at the Military Aviation Museum. The main runway is 11/29 – the east-west 5,000 foot long grass landing strip. There is also a very short north-south cross-wind grass strip runway that is only used if somebody is up and there is a rapid wind change and he has to get safely down. The Virginia Beach Airport was created in 1969 by four local pilots whose real goal was to create a medium sized airport in the farm fields here with a paved runway, a terminal, a hotel, a restaurant and several hangers. Their grand intentions did not pan out and the “Airport” continued to be farmland with the current grass runway and was used for crop dusting planes and banner tow planes. Jerry Yagen, the MAM owner, purchased the property in 2005 as a home for his expanding collection of WW2 warbirds and WW1 classics and began planning the current MAM facilities, home base now to over 70 flying airplanes. The air museum, originally called “The Fighter Factory”, after a few years of just letting in the neighbors and a few friends in to see the planes, opened in 2008 to the general paying public with a new double hanger display building.
MAM is actually in Pungo, VA, a one gas station / one 7-11 berg, about a mile north of the Museum. Near the 7-11 across the street are the remains of the Pungo Naval Outlying Landing Field, an OLF for nearby Oceana and Chambers Field in WW2. It’s mission was to support operations and training of pilots and fighter aircraft intended to operate in WW2 from small escort carriers. NOLF Pungo was commissioned in 1943. Aircraft that practiced at Pungo included TBF/TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers and F4F and FM-2 Wildcat fighters. Nearby to the south was NOLF Creeds and near Oceana was NOLF Fentress. Fentress still operates as a practice carrier landing field for Oceana F/A-18E/F’s, now with a new 8,000 foot 5/23 concrete runway and is now called NALF Fentress. Examples of aircraft that practiced at these fields in WW2 are now on display at MAM. At its height Pungo had three 2,500 foot runways in a star pattern. Pungo was decommissioned in 1945. It was closed but was in excellent condition for a long time and used by general aviation. It now houses a USCG Radio Transmission Tower complex to the south. The north end is being slowly taken over by luxury housing. Some pieces of the runways still exist. OLF Creeds to the south is now a road training track for the Virginia Beach Police Dept.
Jerry Yagen started his airplane collecting in the mid-90’s when he purchased and had later restored in New Zealand a 1941 Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk fighter. So began the story of Jerry purchasing warbirds from profits made from his many vocational training schools. Yagen’s second purchase in 1998 was a 1943 Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX, which after restoration, arrived in Pungo in 2000. Yagen originally stored his growing collection at the Suffolk Executive Airport, 25 miles to the west of MAM, where the original Fighter Factory hanger for storage and restoration was created. That hanger still exists for some repair work and is home to the German Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1c Schwalbe jet fighter that is too heavy to land at MAM and needs a longer runway. The 262 still does flyovers at MAM however.
So….back to the Museum Entrance. So, after you make that right turn at “Dinosaur Park”, you begin to see the first Hanger complex building that Jerry built in 2008. It is pink and cream colored and is designed to look like a 1941 WW2 US Army Air Force double hanger. There is one large arched roof hanger on the left which is the “Navy Hanger” with mostly Navy warbirds and the large Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina amphibious patrol seaplane famous from WW2 in the Pacific. On the right is the “Army Hanger” with US, British and even some Soviet WW2 fighters. Both hangers are joined together in the center with a large 2-story structure with a high central space. In the front at the main entrance from the parking lots is a cashier area, a gift shop, rest rooms, and offices. On a mezzanine is an art display area, a library, offices and a classroom. The large high central space has a German Feisler Fi – 103 “Flying Buzz Bomb” and some WW2 small military vehicles and artillery.
The pride of the Navy Hanger is surprisingly Jerry Yagen’s favorite Air Force plane that he love to fly – the North American P-51D Mustang “Double Trouble Two”. The stars of the Army Air Force Hanger are actually two aircraft that Jerry also loves: a) Jerry’s second purchase, a 1943 British Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IXe and b) a relatively recent acquisition, also British, a WW2 De Havilland DH.98 Mosquito FB Mk.26, that’s mostly made of wood. There are rumors that Yagen may build a new WW2 hanger next door. That red and white checkered water tower, also a British WW2 import, sits right outside the main hanger’s center front entrance door.
A five minute walk to the west of the Main Hanger sit seven historical WW2 buildings that Jerry purchased from England and Germany, disassembled, shipped over here to MAM in Pungo, and had reassembled at the Museum. Visitors can only enter these military relics on special escorted tours. The structures are:
1) The Cottbus Luftwaffe Hanger, built in 1934 in Cottbus, Germany, a small town southeast of Berlin, in which Jerry houses his Luftwaffe planes. The roof arch system is a continuous 12 inch curving truss that transitions to be a 12 inch curved steel girder that curves into the ground, and with beams at the ends of the hanger for support. Amazingly, the hanger’s wooden doors still bare the bullet holes made by advancing Soviet soldiers and the steel end girders still have burn marks from near misses of bomber attacks made by American B-17 bomber raids.
2) Near the grass runway is Jerry’s most recent acquisition: a British WW2 green brick RAF Control Tower imported brick-by-brick from RAF Coxhill, England, a British bomber base in WW2. It is two stories high with an outdoor observation deck area in front of a glass wall facing the runway where the air traffic controllers would guide B-17 landings and takeoffs. It is now known as the Coxhill Control Tower.
3) The third building is a hanger that’s called not surprisingly The World War One Hanger. It is a large wood structure that was built new at MAM and was designed to replicate the massive wooden barns in France that were used at the time to house WW1 Allied bi-plane aeroplane fighters. The WW1 Hanger has massive heavy wood timber roof trusses that form three gabled pitched roof systems to create a large wooden rectangular hanger with three pitched roofs attached to to each other. The far ends of the hanger have heavy wood buttresses that rise in a 30 degree angle off the ground at the ends of each roof truss to support the massive lateral structural roof loads from the truss system. The sides of the hanger have horizontal wood sheathing typical in France in the 1917 Great War. The wood structural system is quite a sight to see. When you are in there, just look up! The wood hanger houses over 25 German and Allied WW1 replica aircraft.
4) Next, the Fighter Factory Hanger, as it is called, is a large metal hanger made to look like a WW2 brick colored hanger with a metal truss arched roof joining high vertical metal walls. It is large enough for 10 fighters loosely spaced inside to work on. It is in here that major aircraft repairs and aircraft overhauls are done to Jerry’s fleet. The repair crew here consists of Tom Kurtz, the long-time Maintenance Chief, 6 mechanics and four apprentices. Also stored here at the maintenance hanger and sometimes out on the ramp is the large Junkers Ju-52 tri-motor Luftwaffe transport cargo plane with its unique corrugated metal side panels. There is also a similar but smaller maintenance crew working at a hanger facility owned by Yagen at the Suffolk Airport 20 miles to the west. It is at Suffolk that the Messerschmidt Me 262A-1c Schwalbe is stored and flies out of as it is too heavy for the grass strip at MAM and needs more runway.
5-7) Finally, there are 3 metal storage hangers with metal pitched roofs with a “Euro-One” spotted green camouflage color scheme that primarily are used for parts storage. These very rare parts and reportedly some unassembled aircraft are stored here in these highly secured facilities. They are not ever open to the public and only selected staff may enter them. Jerry also owns other aircraft, parts and aviation artifacts in European locations and in the Virginia Beach area. Aviation experts are starting to ask “What happens to all this stuff when Jerry Yagen retires?” WHO KNOWS ?
My “Sunday Walk-Around” at the Military Aviation Museum” in Virginia Beach (Pungo) included the following aircraft in the order that I saw them: (Contest – Match the photo with the plane!)
A) Leaving Oceana Saturday at the gate, the last operational aircraft I saw on the ramp – a Sikorsky MH-60R Knighthawk / Seahawk from VX-1 out of Pax.
B) Leaving Oceana Saturday at the gate, the last warbird on the ramp – Jerry Yagen’s Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-8 from MAM.
1) Sunday morning at MSM, walking the ramp – First, the Bell Aircraft P-39 Airacobra, then,
2) The de Havilland Canada DHC-1 “Chipmunk” trainer.
3) The North American SNJ-2 / AT-6 advanced Navy trainer.
4) The 1949 Douglas AD-4 Skyraider “501”.
5) The 1945 North American P-51D Mustang “Double Trouble Two” reportedly Jerry Yagen’s favorite plane to fly.
6) The 1945 Goodyear FG-1D Corsair “31”.
7) The 1944 Grumman FM-2 Wildcat “30”.
8) The 1941 North American P-64 fighter.
9) The Messerschmidt Bf-109.
10) The North American T-28 Trojan.
11) The WACO Classic YMF-5 general aviation red bi-plane.
12) The yellow Boeing Stearman N2S-3 Model 75 “Kaydet” trainer aka “The Yellow Peril”
13) A 2008 Robinson R-44 Raven II in gloss emerald green (N551BK) owned by Barry Knight, a neighbor from next door in Virginia Beach. (It just happened to be on the grass when I was Walking the Line. Had to list it!)
14) A North American B-25J Mitchell medium bomber “Wild Cargo”.
15) A 1944 Russian Yakovlev Yak-3M “7”.
16) A 1939 Russian Polikarpov I-16 Rat “28”.
17) A 1941 shark nose Curtiss P-40 “Warhawk” / “Kittyhawk”. Yagen’s first airplane purchase.
18) The sky blue Boeing P-26 “Peashooter”.
19) The de Havilland DH-82A “Tiger Moth” nose “25”.
20) The light blue Navy Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina amphibious patrol seaplane.
21) A 1939 Navy liaison Piper NE-1 Super Cub “Glimpy” / Piper J-3.
22) A 1943 Hawker “Hurricane” Mk.11B, “DZ-O” on fuselage.
23) The Junkers Ju-52 Tante JU “Iron Anne” Luftwaffe tri-motor cargo plane.
24) A 1956 Beechcraft T-34B “Mentor” trainer.
25) A 1943 Vickers Supermarine “Spitfire” Mk. IXE, fuselage “GZ-?”, squadron CO plane.
And it was a nice Saturday at Oceana in 2019 and a nice Sunday at Jerry Yagen’s Military Aviation Museum. There were many more planes at MAM that I did not see on this trip. See you all on the flight line in the Summer of 2022. STAY HEALTHY !