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Warbirds bring history to life
To teach Southern Utahns about aviation in past wars he needed the real thing — genuine aircraft that saw flight during conflicts like the Korean War and could still zoom through the air like it’s 1952. And when his museum opens on May 22 he’ll have just that.
There’s no other place in the state of Utah that has this,” he said of his functional, historic air planes. “We’ve got something tangible they can see.”
Located at the new St. George Municipal Airport, the museum will show case four aircraft from around the world, some of which actually saw combat.
They include a Soviet MiG-15 fighter jet used by the North Koreans/Chinese in the Korean War, a Soviet MiG-17 used by the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War and a British BAC Jet Provost used as a trainer for the Royal Air Force from 1955-1993.
Though he works part-time for SkyWest Airlines as a flight safety manager, Hunter said he started the non-profit company, Western Sky Aviation, in his spare time to gather items to display in a museum setting. Since receiving his first plane from a dying friend more than two years ago, Hunter gathered aircraft from people all over the Southwestern United States. And after another friend donated the use of a building at the old airport, his dreams of a warbird museum finally began to take shape. "
We've put in a lot of sweat and work," he said of his seven-person crew. "We've just got to get this opened." Constantly looking for people willing to donate time, money and artifacts, Hunter said he envisions the museum emerging as an wartime education center for Southern Utah.
He hopes it will be a place where young people can come to experience first-hand the wartime events that shaped the world they live in. "We've got so many pilots who live around here," he said of St. George's retired military population. "We would certainly like to have events to listen to these people who can share their experiences."
Ron Edwards, the museum's restoration director, said there's still a lot of work to be done before things reach that point. With only seven people working with the organization, he said it still needs volunteers and financial assistance. "It's been a group effort getting everything going," he said.
Public Relations Officer, Rich Grinnell, added the aircraft have flown in air shows, but will need a lot more financial support before the museum will be able to get them in the air. Some of the planes cost nearly $1,000 an hour in fuel to fly. "We want to expand and not to be sitting idle," he said. "But that takes money."
WarBirds museum takes flight at St. George Airport