By Jim Stanley
No aviation and space museum in Texas, and few in the United States, can claim a higher status than the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston. In June 2006, Ralph Royce, LSFM’s longtime president and CEO, announced his retirement, amid praise from its board of directors and Robert L. Waltrip, museum founder and chairman emeritus.
Royce, who led the museum for 15 years and is credited for the museum’s growth, reputation and vast aircraft collection, continues to serve the museum in a consulting capacity. The museum’s board of directors, under chairman Marshall Cloyd, named Larry Gregory, vice president of the museum, to assume the presidency Royce vacated.
“I’m looking forward to further developing the museum,” Gregory said. “Ralph, along with the museum’s first president, Jim Fausz, set a high standard for me to follow. It’s a huge honor to be associated with the museum, its aircraft and most importantly, our staff and volunteers. They make the museum.”
LSFM started in 1985 as a private collection of historic aircraft. With the acquisition of more planes, the need for a new home led to the construction of a 50,000-square-foot, phase-one facility at Galveston’s Scholes Field in 1990. Continued growth required the addition of a 30,000-square-foot, phase-two hangar in 1991.
The nonprofit organization is self-supporting, through private donations. In 1995, the Texas legislature established the museum as the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame honors Texans who’ve made notable contributions to aviation. Inductees now number more than 50, and range from barnstormers and war heroes to those who have walked on the moon. Prominent inductees include Howard Hughes, President George H.W. Bush, Flying Tiger ace Brig. Gen. David Lee “Tex” Hill, Herb Kelleher, D.U. “Dee” Howard and astronauts Alan Bean, Gene Cernan and John W. Young.
The Texas Aviation Hall of Fame has become one of the nation’s leading museums of its type. Along with a picture and short biography, each member’s display contains books, models, awards and other memorabilia, portraying the inductee’s experience and aviation accomplishments. The 8th Annual Texas Aviation Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Gala, held in November 2006, honored the newest inductees: John F. Bookout, Lt. Col. George A. Davis, Ed Swearingen and Robert L. Waltrip.
The TAHF Education Center wing opened in 1999 to house the many exhibits and artifacts.
The Lone Star Flight Museum is home to more than 40 vintage aircraft, which have played a significant role in the history and development of aviation. Most of these planes are flyable and maintained to immaculate condition by staff mechanics and volunteers. The collection includes a B-17 Flying Fortress, North American B-25 Mitchell, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, Grumman F3F Wildcat, Grumman F6F Hellcat, Chance Vought F4U Corsair, Douglas SBD Dauntless and Supermarine Spitfire. Various trainers and cargo planes are on display or in restoration.
“Our newly restored Hawker Hurricane should make its debut at our Spirit of Flight Airshow in April,” Gregory said.
The Hurricane took to the sky last spring, for the first time since a forced landing in 1944.
“The Hurricane will significantly add to our collection, and we can’t wait for everyone to see it,” Gregory said.
The museum staff has chosen to paint the Hurricane in the scheme of ace L.C. Wade’s aircraft. It will show a western desert cameo and a number matching one of the two planes he flew in the Mediterranean theater in 1941. Wade, who flew with the Royal Air Force, Squadron 33, had 23 aerial victories and was the highest ranking allied ace flying in the RAF during World War II.
LSFM’s award-winning collection of flyable aircraft logs more than 40,000 miles cross-country per year, participating in air shows and flying displays. The museum’s P-47 Thunderbolt flies in the Air Force Heritage Flight program, which features classic warbirds flying together with jet fighters from the current Air Force inventory. More than 1.5 million people across the country each year view this unique presentation.
For more information, call 888-354-4488 or visit [http://www.lonestarflight.org].