The Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston brings history to life
You can smell the motor oil as the ground crew hustles to get the giant war machine ready for takeoff. As they finish, the crew chief signals the pilot, who gives a thumbs-up and speaks into his radio. Then the bomber’s four 1,200-horsepower, radial-piston engines come roaring to life, and the B-17 Flying Fortress moves down the runway, gaining speed until it finally lifts off. It’s not what most people would consider a typical day at the museum.
“The thing that distinguishes us from other museums of our type is that we have living airplanes. It’s not a dead museum,” says Larry Gregory, president of the Lone Star Flight Museum. Located at the Galveston International Airport near Moody Gardens, the museum houses a collection of more than 40 historically significant aircraft in working order. “That’s the key: that you can see these 60-plus-year-old machines still flying. When you come to the museum, oftentimes you’ll see us working on them.”
The museum is also home to the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, which commemorates individuals for their significant contributions to the development, growth or preservation of aviation. Among the 53 Texans currently honored in the hall are Alan Bean, the only Texan to walk on the moon; John Young, commander of the first space shuttle mission; aviation pioneer Howard Hughes; and barnstormer Bessie Coleman, who is recognized as America’s first black aviatrix.
Some Hall of Fame inductees are more famous for their achievements outside the cockpit. These include Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, President George H.W. Bush and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, all of whom flew in combat during World War II. “We try to cover the full gamut of aviation,” says Gregory. “It’s not just astronauts, it’s not just war heroes; it’s engineers, it’s entrepreneurs, and it’s barnstormers.”
The Hall of Fame will induct four new members on Saturday, Nov. 11. Festivities will begin at 6 p.m. with a cocktail reception and will continue with dinner and the induction ceremony. On Nov. 12, the fun continues with Fly Day, the museum’s last flying event of the year.
Fly Day is pretty much like any other day at the Flight Museum, except that many of the museum’s World War II planes — including the B-17 and B-25 bombers; the SBD Dauntless dive bomber; and the Spitfire, Hellcat and Corsair fighters — will be taking off and landing continuously throughout the afternoon. Gregory says that Fly Day does not feature aerobatics like the air show that the museum hosts each spring, but it is a chance for the public to tour the museum and see these magnificent flying machines in action.
The Lone Star Flight Museum and Texas Aviation Hall of Fame are open every day of the year except Christmas. On Fly Day, the museum will open at 9 a.m., and the planes will fly from noon through mid-afternoon.
Lone Star Flight Museum
2002 Terminal Drive, Galveston