A museum of high flights

San Javier competes with other airports to host the historic aircraft collection of the Infante de Orleans Foundation, one of the most important in Europe. It would be a ‘happy ending’ when Aena moves to Corvera

Can you imagine flying over the Mar Menor a squadron of aircraft that participated in the Civil War and the Second World War? It would be a gift for lovers of history and aerial acrobatics to hear over the skies of the Region of Murcia the roars of a Soviet ‘Fly’ fighter of the year 1942, of a Piper of the Armored Division commanded by General Patton, or a De Havilland Dragon Rapide of eight passengers. This will be possible if the proposal to install in San Javier airport the headquarters of the Infante de Orleans Foundation (FIO), which seeks an alternative location to Madrid’s Cuatro Vientos aerodrome, where it has been operating since its foundation in 1989, comes to fruition. .

The Region of Murcia competes in this unique race with Getafe and Corral de Ayllón (Segovia) to become the headquarters of a flying museum of historic aircraft, of the few that exist in the world. The collection has 44 fully operational models that go back to the time of the biplanes of the twenties and thirties – of cloth and wood -, together with reactors of 1970. The main core of the collection focuses on the era of the great ‘raids’ and the Spanish Civil War. With a continuous maintenance by a team of mechanics, and keeping up to the last piece, these devices make public exhibitions to keep alive a patrimonial and historical legacy, tell its founders and sponsors.

They consider that this museum would be a happy ending for the airport of San Javier, once Aena leaves this year civil facilities to move to operate Corvera. It was the Minister of Defense, María Dolores de Cospedal, who put on the table the option of San Javier when she met with the directors of this private Foundation, who are looking for another venue for their collection to replace that of Cuatro Vientos, due to the growing activity of the Madrid airport.

Defense Support

The president of the Board of the Foundation, Carlos Valle Torralbo, who was Iberia pilot for 40 years, has also met with the president of Aena, Jaime García-Legaz, and the regional government to explain the relocation project. Also, the Air Force is aware of the plans, and would welcome the installation of the museum with the General Air Academy. The Ministry of the Presidency has not yet responded to the proposal made by the Foundation. Until now, the Murcian government has shown less interest than other ‘competitors’. The Executive of Castilla-La Mancha opted for the airport of Ciudad Real, closed to speed, although this possibility has been finally ruled out.

The Foundation received the proposal of Minister Cospedal; and García-Legaz believes that it would be very positive for San Javier

Jaime García-Legaz said that if this museum is finally located in the facilities that Aena vacates, “it would be an extraordinarily positive news for the Region of Murcia and particularly for San Javier.”

Carlos Valle explained that “in a few weeks” the definitive location of the Infante de Orleans Foundation will be known. The option of San Javier is very attractive for this institution, but it is on stand-by, waiting for the result of the conversations it has with Airbus to move the museum to the Getafe factory. San Javier had greater options at the beginning of the year, when the interest of Airbus declined, which has now been reactivated. The Foundation wants to respect the chronological order of the candidate sites, and ahead of San Javier there is also the Corral de Ayllón flight field.

Links with Los Alcázares

The Foundation owes its name to Alfonso de Orleans Borbón, first military aviator and pioneer of Spanish aviation. Its mission is the recovery, restoration and maintenance in flight of the Spanish aeronautical historical heritage. From the base of Cuatro Vientos he makes flight demonstrations once a month with models from the time of the biplanes, the thirties, the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and the postwar period. The collection consists of sports planes, training, combat, transport and gliders. It covers from the time of the wood and cloth, like the De Havilland Moth of 1925, until the era of the reactor, represented by the Super Saeta of 1970.

 

Some models link their history to the General Air Academy and the old hydroplane base of Los Alcázares. It would be like returning home. In fact some copies will participate on May 5 and 6 and June 10 and 11 in the commemorative events of the 75th anniversary of the AGA. Carlos Valle considers it a success that the museum in San Javier can be established “because there is a confluence of interests in the Region of Murcia and would add value to the General Air Academy. On the Mar Menor would fly the ‘Fly’, a fighter that was used by the Republican side and had its base in the aviation school of Los Alcázares. Other aircraft that served in the AGA and flew in El Carmolí will also do it, “says the president of the Foundation. It would be a playful return to the past of aeronautical history, one of the purposes pursued by this charitable institution.

In his opinion, there would be interesting inertias due to the rich aeronautical legacy of the Region. They have found the best predisposition in the Air Force and in Aena. «The idea is to transform the passenger terminal into a hangar-museum; the remodeling would not be very complicated, “adds Valle. The public exhibitions held in Cuatro Vientos on the first Sunday of each month -only during a 45-minute window, and with a lot of stress- would be transformed into two or three samples a year in San Javier with the longest flight time, , warning that the decision is not yet made.

The Ministry does not respond

In any case, they would need the support of the Murcian Government to maintain this permanent museum and cover certain expenses, since it would be necessary to transfer four mechanics and two administrative staff; the rest is volunteering. This help has not yet been quantified. “We met in December with the heads of the Ministry of the Presidency and we delivered all the documentation,” he said, from which they have not yet received a response for reasons they do not know. Maybe because the Community has to provide financial aid. At that meeting in Murcia, Carlos Artiñano, president of the Juan de La Cierva Foundation, also participated.

Attract visitors

The counterpart would be to use facilities that will be closed when Aena leaves San Javier. Probably the Air Force has no disposition or money to maintain the passenger terminal, the parking lot and the other civil facilities annexed to the AGA to avoid its deterioration. Most likely they are left behind. Together with this, the Region would gain a unique permanent museum, of the few that exist in the world. Only France, Germany and the United Kingdom have flying collections of these characteristics. United States too, but play in another division. The museum and the aerial festivals would attract a large number of visitors. You just have to check the crowd that goes to the air shows in the Mar Menor.

Half of the expenses of the Infante de Orleans Foundation are financed with the fees of 3,000 members and donors, and another part corresponds to sponsorships of Aena, which is the main one, Iberia, Airbus and Repsol, among other companies. A small amount comes from the donations that are collected in the air exhibitions (about 10 euros on average), except for adults and children.

Pilots in active

“We are the museum that flies the most in the world and our collection is highly valued in Europe. The activity is based on volunteering. Flying active pilots who dedicate their time in a disinterested way ». Carlos Valle emphasizes that they have been looking for an alternative location to Cuatro Vientos for 15 years, where they have problems because it is an increasingly saturated airport.

The fact that the Infante de Orleans Foundation has set its sights on San Javier has its origin, in part, in the interest of the regional government to give some use to the facilities that Aena will leave later this year, according to the minister of Defense, María Dolores de Cospedal. This was transmitted in November to the people in charge of the Foundation. “The minister put it in our knowledge and we made the appropriate consultations. Now we have to wait because the Getafe option has been reactivated, which did not materialize in 2009 due to the economic crisis “, says Carlos Valle, who has had the opportunity to remember his time at Los Alcázares and the General Air Academy as apprentice pilot and aviator.