March 1, 2012
MiG fighters are repaired and on display in Quincy, Illinois.
An unassuming hangar at Quincy Regional-Baldwin Field (UIN) in Quincy, Illinois, is home to the World Aerospace Museum. The beige hangar blends with the others that line the south edge of the airport. A sign and the two weather-worn MiG–29s parked on the ramp are the only clues as to what the building contains.
Enter the building into a lounge/kitchen area. The walls are lined with photos—photos of MiG jets and Albatross jets and former astronaut Hoot Gibson in the cockpit of a MiG–21.
Go through the next door into the main part of the hangar. Crammed inside, only inches apart, are MiG fighters and Albatross L–39s and L–59s. A nice, neat display it isn’t—that’s because the airplanes are undergoing maintenance. They are not static pieces, but working, flying airplanes.
Visitors can walk among the airplanes and actually touch a Mach 2 Russian fighter. The mechanics are willing to provide information about the aircraft as well as explain the maintenance they are performing. They may be removing or installing ejection seats, working on electronics, servicing engines, or performing any of the myriad tasks involved in keeping these jets airworthy.
The airplanes in the World Aerospace Museum are on loan from the fleet of Air USA. Air USA, founded by Quincy native Don Kirlin, uses its aircraft for Department of Defense training. The airplanes take part in air intercept exercises, threat simulation, and air defense training as well as other tasks.
At the airport in December 2010, Air USA made the world’s first civilian flight of a MiG–29. The flight can be viewed on YouTube.
Thomas A. Horne flies the ultimate personal turboprop. Video by Mike Fizer.
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