There is a new Warbird museum on the block. The Vintage Aviation Museum may be young in age but not in ambition. Sean O’Brien is the founder and president of the Vintage Aviation Museum. Mr. O’Brien has worked in multiple museums, including flying on tour with a B-17. These experiences have not only prepared him to start his own museum but have also been the driving force behind the new opening. “I got to a point where I realized that in order to fulfill my passion and vision for vintage aircraft, warbirds, and all of the history that surrounds them I needed to start my own museum” says Mr. O’Brien. He began planning the Vintage Aviation Museum in 2014, and launched it in January 2016. Since opening the doors, Mr. O’Brien says, “…the response has been overwhelming”.
The Vintage Aviation Museum is busy at work. The museum will plans to move its headquarters to Salt Lake City, Utah hopefully in 2017 when its museum facilities are completed. The new facility will include state-of -art restoration facilities and museum spaces to be used for educational purposes.
The Vintage Aviation Museum joined forces with the Desert Rat B-17E Restoration Team, that has been working to restore B-17E 41-2595 since it was discovered in Maine decaying in a scrapyard in the 1980’s. Mr. O’Brien has been following the B-17Es progress for a number of years and when he was in a position to help, decided to join forces with the Desert Rat team to complete the restoration sooner. The time table for the B-17E Desert Rat’s completion is 3 to 5 years, however it is dependent on funding. When the VAM facilities are completed in 2017, part of Desert Rat will be moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for restoration, while the remainder of the plane will stay in Marengo, Illinois to be completed. Once Desert Rat’s restoration is completed, the entire airframe will be transported to Salt Lake City for final assembly. After completion “Desert Rat” will be on tour across the United States as a flying museum and will be based out of Salt Lake City, Utah.
In addition, the Vintage Aviation Museum and Desert Rat teams are joining forces to build an airworthy B-17C. The B-17C build is in its early stages, parts are beginning to be collected. The pace will not increase on the B-17C build until either the museum’s volunteer force increases or Desert Rat is returned back to flying condition. Although building a B-17 can be done more quickly than restoring one, the thousands of rivets incorporated into the airframe make construction time consuming. Once the B-17C is completed it will join B-17E “Desert Rat” on tour.
Mr. O’Brien thinks that flying these aircraft is necessary, “…so that people can see them operate in their natural element”. VAM restoration and museum facilities will be open to the public to be used as an educational tool and share the stories behind their planes. Mr. O’Brien believes, “It’s not just about the planes, it is also about the factory workers, the people that gave up their time to help out…” with the war effort. The Vintage Aviation Museum wants to give people the opportunity to learn history first hand from the veterans that experienced it.
“We try to do things where we are a little outside of the box, we don’t want to be like everyone else…we want to create our own path… and be able to reach people not just local to the museum but across the country”, says museum president Mr. O’Brien. An example of this being the “Night With Dick Cole” event that the museum hosted. Unlike other events, VAM kept the event to a group of 100 people in order to allow people to personally interact with Mr. Cole, the last surviving Dolittle Raider and have their questions answered from a man who is walking and talking history.
Keep your eyes open for the Vintage Aviation Museum’s future projects, which include:
|PV2 Harpoon||D-Day C-47||F9F Panther|
|BT-13 Valiant||A-26 Invader||B-25D Mitchell|
-Vintage Aviation Museum
-Desert Rat Restoration Team