Aviation Museum
Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas


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6/10/2004 Vintage Air: Museum could add memorial in future


By STEPHEN FARRIS/Daily Sun Staff

Did you know Navarro County has an aviation history museum?

Take a short drive south on U.S. Highway 287 and take the Corsicana Municipal Airport exit. Follow the old slab road going to Navarro, and turn right into the entrance of the airport. Pull up to the terminal, and inside, you will meet Gary and Sarah Farley who are in charge of airport operations.

If you ask the Farleys about the museum, you probably will see a big smile pop up on their faces as they will gladly point you in the right direction, or even present you with a tour of one of the airport's pride and joys.

Gary Farley said the museum was started back in 1997 when he was cleaning out one of the shops and stumbled upon a few items of interest. Later, he found a couple of display cases to show items.

"It officially opened in 1998," Farley said. "But it technically began with those few items I found in 1997."

Farley said it took a couple of years to get the museum foundation set up with the government, as it is officially a non-profit organization now.
"We eventually designated a couple of rooms for displaying the memorabilia once the collection started growing," Farley said.

Farley said visitors to the museum can expect to see lots of items relating to everyday life when cadets and instructors lived and trained at the former military airfield.

"Usually visitors go in and look at the different artifacts," Farley said. "I am available for any questions they may have."

Some of the artifacts inside range from what was considered "Top Secret" documents from the World War II era, to training manuals for pilots, newspaper articles, uniforms, maps, and a few pictures when the Corsicana airfield was in full service. Other items are displayed from the Vietnam war along with artifacts that predate World War II can be viewed as well.

Farley said tours are available upon request.

"I've given tours to kids from daycare to high school students," He said. "It's really fascinating to the kids."

He said visitors get the chance to actually see one the planes that was built and used for actual training and combat from the World War II era that is housed at the airport.

"The model we have was built by Fairchild manufacturers," Farley said. "It is a real PT-19."

He said the PT-19 -- the initials stand for "Primary Trainer" -- is a two-place, open cockpit airplane built and designed for the military.

"It's a true 'war bird,' " Farley said.

A major project in development at the airport is the Army Air Force Aviation Memorial which Farley hopes to open to the public in about a year or two.

"The City of Corsicana has given us five acres for the memorial site," Farley said. "We have a model of what the memorial is going to look like in the terminal lobby."

Farley said right now the memorial area has a 75-foot walk way. A 50-foot circle patio to be built in the future at the end of the walk-way, where a bronze life like statue will be displayed on or near the patio. Descriptive plaques will be set up along the walk-way also.

"The cost of the statue will run about $30,000," Farley said. "We have collected about $10,000 in donations toward it."

Farley said they plan on applying for grants in the near future, but mainly rely on the donations coming in.

Sandra Van Zandt from Tulsa, Okla. has been working on the sculpture for nearly two years. She is a flight attendant for American Airlines, sculpting on the side. Some of her works include the five bronze statues for Naval Aviation in Pennsicola, Fla., and a U.S. bi-plane displayed in a museum in Tulsa, said Farley.

"She came to us through the son of a former instructor," Farley said.

The airport has been home to a reunion held each year in honor of the cadets and instructors who taught and trained during World War II at the Corsicana airfield.

Farley said people don't realize a large percentage of the cadets who trained at the airfield died in World War II. Former cadets that attend the reunion live all across the nation. Some of the cadets that feel up to it are given the opportunity to take a ride in a PT-19, he said.

"One guy said he logged in more than 2,000 hours when he instructed here," Farley said. "He hadn't been in a PT-19 since that time until the reunion."

Visitors can tour the museum weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Farley said holiday hours vary.

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Stephen Farris may be contacted via e-mail at sfarris@corsicanadailysun.com

 

 


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Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox