Ground broken on new Texas museum for WWII-era aircrafts

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Maxine Flournoy is a little more familiar than most with the World War II-era military aircraft that call the McCampbell-Porter Airport home.

The 92-year-old, who spent time in the cockpit with the Women Airforce Service Pilots in her 20s, is the namesake of the local organization dedicated to keeping them in flying shape. She was among those who gathered Monday to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Maxine Flournoy Third Coast Commemorative Air Force’s new hangar and museum, expected to open in April 2014.

“I was thrilled and honored to fly them,” she said. “I think it’s important to preserve them because we need to know how we’ve arrived at the point we are today.”

Col. Pearson Knolle, unit leader of the local Commemorative Air Force, said the completion of the 12,500-square-foot hangar would include 3,000 square feet for museum space. It would house an N2S Stearman and T-50 Bobcat and also would have space for four more planes.

“I’m very elated,” Knolle said. “We want to (garner) the next generation’s interest and let them know the efforts people went through to keep our freedom.”

Flournoy’s family donated the hangar at the museum’s original location in Alice. Commemorative Air Force member and pilot Jeremy Hintz said it closed about a year ago after a study found the move to Ingleside would bring the group closer to a fast-growing tourism area.

Airport and San Patricio County officials are working to fund a 1,000-foot expansion of the runway.

It would add to the economic boon created by the airport, which is used by companies like Kiewit, said San Patricio Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Lynn Spencer.

The expansion also would mean the Commemorative Air Force could bring in larger aircrafts, Knolle said, like the B-29 housed in Dallas.

Working with the aircraft is like going back in time, said Col. Troy Fitting, flight-line service lead with the Commemorative Air Force. He handles the smoke effects spectators see during flyover and air shows.

“You actually get your hands on history,” he said. “You hear the engine, smell the smells — you’re time traveling.”

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