A CHANCE TO HELP SAVE A SIGNIFICANT HERITAGE AIRFIELD
We have all mourned to loss of special airfields and other historic aviation centres that have been lost because of greedy developers or selfish residents creating inappropriate establishments next to the airfield, and then complaining about how the activities of the airfield effects that new construction, before demanding the closure of the field. The good news is that the aviation community is more and more standing firm against these greedy predators.
There is an airfield that could use your help, right now, to assist against just such a predator. The historic Sonoma Valley Airport, perhaps better known as Schellville in northern California, is one of those ‘aviation Nirvana’ centres that has evolved over many decades to become a mecca for heritage aviation. Dozens of vintage and warbird aircraft owners and restorers have gravitated towards this wonderful old fashioned airfield which is itself, becoming a heritage tourism attraction. This is especially so because it is possible to experience some wonderful WW-II aviation experiences there such as flying in a Boeing Stearman primary trainer, an AT-6/SNJ advanced trainer, or a choice between a P-40 Kittyhawk or P-51D Mustang fighter. There are plans for a museum display hangar to further enhance the heritage aviation tourism experience.
This idyllic centre is now being threatened. A neighbouring property has been purchased by someone wishing to develop a ‘fly-fishing ranch’ adjacent to the field complete with a man-made lake which is to be filled with fish, which in turn will attract high levels of bird life adjacent to the active runways. No permits were approved for this activity, but the developer is pushing to keep developing it despite having avoided the usual regulatory constraints. He has even built a log fence across the runway over-run, providing a clear view of his thoughts on aviation safety. It is this that has moved supporters to create an on-line petition to show that support for this airfield does not come just from the locals but from enthusiasts around the world who recognize Schellville as a heritage aviation asset of global importance.
This is an involved story. It was very well covered on a news bulletin on ABC 7 News which can be watched here…. http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/video?id=8828014&pid=8828011
If you would like to help the cause, there is a simple way to sign your name in support of this wonderful home of vintage aviation. Over 650 people have already signed in support of the airfield. Go to this site… http://www.vintageaircraft.com/
and click on the petition right in the middle of the page.
Please take a moment to do this if you have not done so already. It really is a great opportunity to help to support a very deserving airfield.
For many years historic aviation enthusiasts have criticized the Smithsonian Institution and namely the National Air and Space Museum for lack of action in many of the restoration projects that fill the facilities of the Garber Annex in Silver Hill, Maryland. With the opening of the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles, many felt that the situation would change sooner than later, and in some cases it has indeed changed. Notable recent additions to the Udvar-Hazy display such as the Northrup P-61 Black Widow show that some progress is being made, but is it enough? Notable aircraft such as the Boeing B-17D Flying Fortress “The Swoose” continue to deteriorate, despite the fact the National Air & Space Museum lacks a B-17 in public display.
The General Accountability Office (GAO) released a report recently that uncovers “major structural deterioration” and “leaks” in many Smithsonian Museums and questions of cash flow and sustainability have come to light. With millions of people annually viewing the collections, the urgency of the situation is slowly coming to light in the media. Relative to the National Air & Space Museum, the GAO raised concerns 10 years ago in a report detailing the lack of space, lack of money, and continuing deterioration of the collection. One of the primary concerns; the restoration and storage space, still has yet to be addressed even with the building of the new Udvar-Hazy Center.
Tyler Green writes an opinion on the situation in the Los Angeles Times and notes the lack of action by Congress and the perils of allowing corporate sponsoring of certain exhibits to raise cash flow. Green notes, “One of the problems with corporate involvement is the appearance of influence in exhibition programming” as he describes a recent incident with a General Motors sponsored exhibit.
However, would corporate sponsorship help especially in the case of the aircraft that are at Garber? Where would the Boeing 307 Stratoliner be without the help of Boeing… at what point is the line crossed?
Your opinion counts and certainly the fate of many items of aviation history hang in the balance. Please make your representatives aware of your thoughts and let’s help the NASM come up with some way of keeping our aviation treasures safe.