Although the metro area can’t quite match the aeronautical heritage of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, it can lay claim to a longstanding love of winging things – and Maryland Heights’ Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum celebrates that love in fine fashion.
Kitty Hawk, of course, boasts that whole 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright cachet involving the inauspiciously named Kill Devil Hills, but locals here similarly (and righteously) glorify both Charles Lindbergh’s St. Louis spiritedness a mere 24 years later and the headquartered presence, from 1939 to 1997, of aerospace giant McDonnell Aircraft Corporation/McDonnell Douglas.
Temporally, the Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum leans more toward the former era than to the latter by spotlighting bona fide aircraft or simulacra from the so-called Golden Age of Flight – loosely, the period between World War I and World War II.
Despite its municipal location, the nonprofit museum occupies four tidy main hangars at what’s called the Creve Coeur Airport. Its website identifies the museum’s primary goal as “the acquisition, restoration, display and operation of antique and vintage aircraft.”
The website also mentions that its collection – which comprises more than four dozen aircraft, excluding a certain number under restoration – tends to focus on “airplanes that were built in our area or that have some sort of local or regional historical significance.”
Beyond the museum’s own collection, intriguingly, the airport also serves as “home to at least 30 other antiques and classics that are owned and operated by private individuals,” according to the website.
Aircraft at the museum come in manifold makes and models, as well as an aeronautical kaleidoscope of hues, most of them explosive primaries – cherry reds and lemon yellows, in particular, but also sky blues and cumulus whites.
The website notes that certain motifs characterize the museum’s quartet of hangars. By way of example, Hangar 1 largely devotes itself to planes from the Waco Aircraft Company, a manufacturer producing a vast flock of civilian biplanes in Troy, Ohio, from 1920 to 1947. The company started as the Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio – hence the acronym WACO in its designations.
Perhaps most notably, that first hangar boasts two examples of the snub-nosed WACO QCF-2, as muscular as some sort of improbable avian bulldog, one in bright scarlet, the other in pristine white with decorative scallops.
In Hangar 2 – “St. Louis Built, Missouri Built and Local Interest Collection,” notes the website – visitors “of a certain age” may quiver with fond nostalgia over an argent Ryan M-1 replica labeled “Pacific Air Transport Air Mail.” The same hangar also houses the sleek blue-and-gold loveliness of a Laister-Kauffman LK-10A glider, and a scalloped Flagg F-13 closely rivals the WACO QCF-2s for presence.
Elsewhere, the pleasant gallimaufry of Hangar 3 includes a twin-engine de Havilland Dragon Rapide DH89A, and Hangar 4 houses special collections like a Sopwith Pup replica with the original rotary engine. (Fans of Charles Schulz’s cherished Peanuts comic strip should recall that Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s nonpareil beagle, periodically “piloted” a British Sopwith Camel.)
In addition to the joys of its collection, the museum promises a forthcoming online store, which will offer T-shirts with antique and vintage airplane logos. With certain caveats and conditions, the museum also supports a complimentary website service devoted to the sale and purchase of such antique and vintage aircraft, as well as related items.
For a nominal admission fee, aircraft aficionados can visit the museum Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; they also can visit it Tuesdays through Fridays by appointment only.
In short, such aficionados unable to view the the Wright Flyer and Lindbergh’s Ryan NYP in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., still can enjoy a comparable thrill by jaunting to Creve Coeur Airport.
Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum, Creve Coeur Airport, 14301 Creve Coeur Airport Road, Maryland Heights, 314-434-3368, historicaircraftrestorationmuseum.org