After a campaign spanning nearly a decade, the Connecticut Air & Space Center will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, May 19th to mark the formal start for their restoration of a priceless aviation artifact; the old Curtiss Flying School hangar. Located on the Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the hangar dates back to 1928 and is one of the very first permanent structures set up at one of the nation’s most historically significant airfields. It was from this field that Sikorsky built his ocean-spanning flying boats, that Vought created the mighty Corsair, and where the first practical helicopters emerged. This hangar has played a significant role in that entire story, even sheltering the prototype XF4U-1 Corsair and one of Amelia Earhart’s aircraft. Charles Lindbergh frequented the hangar during his days as a Corsair test pilot in WWII, and many other well-known names of the 20th century have stepped through its doors….
The groundbreaking ceremony will take place beside the Curtiss Hangar (behind the Windsock Restaurant & Bar) at 295 Main Street in Stratford CT 06615. It will start at 12 noon with the expected arrival of the Yankee Air Museum’s B-17G Yankee Lady. The Igor I Sikorsky Memorial Airport’s FG-1D Corsair, under restoration with the Connecticut Air & Space Center, will also be on display at the event. Members of the Vought family, Corsair-designer Rex Beisel’s family, and test pilot Lyman Bullard’s family are expected to attend, with Johnathon Day, Beisel’s grandson giving a speech. The mayors of both Stratford and Bridgeport, brought closer together through the project, will also be on hand to officiate. The ceremony is free and open to the general public. It should last about 45 minutes and afterwards, light refreshments will be available at the Connecticut Air & Space Center’s main shop across the street on Sniffens Lane (only open to people aged 18 and over). Free parking will be available close to the Hangar at 295 Main Street in Stratford, Connecticut.
The project has involved immense efforts on behalf of the Connecticut Air & Space Center, especially when coordinating the niceties of local politics between the two neighboring cities of Bridgeport (who owns the airport) and Stratford (upon whose land the airport sits). While many people have been involved in this process, the museum’s Mark Corvino and Gene Madara played a major role in getting the job done, and deserve a great deal of the credit. There is significant funding in place, raised from state and town grants as well as donations from far and wide, but it will need supplementing as the project moves forwards (please contribute HERE if you can). This will be a formal restoration project, run by professional construction companies rather than volunteer labor, although doubtless, there will be plenty of volunteer involvement in the process. The main aim is to get the new roof in place, and the windows/doors renovated so that the building is buttoned up before winter arrives. This will allow work to continue inside the hangar during the colder months, as the Connecticut winters can be harsh. To learn more about the hangar’s history, please click HERE.
When completed, the hangar will become the museum’s annex and house the FG-1D Corsair they are currently restoring. CASC will place a representative Sikorsky helicopter alongside the Corsair (probably the H-19 they are refurbishing presently) and a replica of Gustave Whitehead’s Number 21 aircraft design dating from 1901. The hangar will also contain displays relating the history of aviation in Connecticut, and particularly Bridgeport/Stratford. This hangar is one of the very few aviation-related structures still standing that dates from the early days of flight. It will soon receive the resurrection it so richly deserves, and with luck and hard work, it should be ready for opening within the next three years. Not only will it become an internationally recognized landmark, but it will help bring a renaissance to this struggling area of town. For those who wish to contribute to its refurbishment, or to help the Connecticut Air & Space Center reach its full potential, you can help by contributing at the link HERE.