Local Museum Adds To Collection

They were built for the skies, but Sunday a pair of vintage American military planes could be seen rolling through the streets of East Texas.

Their destination... a local museum that has become one of the area's best kept secrets.  It was quite a sight as they came cruising down the roads of East Texas.  Two Vietnam era Air Force jets, on their way to what could be their final destination.

It took a little prodding, but members of the Historical Aviation Memorial mMuseum in Tyler, said they were lucky to get them.

"We had just written a letter to the Air Force saying that we had some ex-105 pilots here and they would like to have a 105, they said hey we got one come get it, come get it now," said Ron Rimbey who helps to obtain airplanes for the HAMM.

"Well we went over there and the t-bird was sitting there and we said what's going on with the t-bird and they said you have it too."

Once unloaded the jets will take their place next to nearly a dozen others on display at the museum. The planes are meant to give a history lesson of sorts to those who visit, but, for some, they do much more than that.

"One of the guys that came out here, he lives in the area, he climbed into the cockpit of the F-111 and I thought we were going to have to use dynamite to get him out."

Mike Burke is the curator of the growing museum which has been open to the public since early last year.  He said many folks are surprised when they stop in.

"They're amazed, they say 'I wouldn't have believed you would have had this here, we wouldn't of thought you would have something like this here' and the more knowledgeable they are about aviation and the history of aviation the appreciative they are."

And as the museum grows, members hope that appreciation will too.

"Eventually we hope to have 20-25 airplanes out here of various kinds for people to see," said Rimbey. "The thing is we want to build and air museum here in East Texas that we can all be proud of."

Getting the two jets to the museum in Tyler wasn't easy or cheap.  The trip from Fort Worth took around six hours and cost the museum about $10,000 dollars.

To learn more about the museum or to find out when you can stop by give them a call at 903-526-1945.

Chris Gibson, reporting