NOTE:The latest news on the dissolution of the MAM collection, including the destination of the Focke Wulf Fw 190 and the B-17 “Chuckie” are added at the bottom of this article.
As we recently reported, Jerry Yagen, owner of the Military Aviation Museum (MAM) of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is selling off the collection.
The reasons for the sale
are still unknown at this time, but is rumored to have been in the works for a some time, though word has gotten out only recently. It certainly seemed like everything was “normal” when we attended the “2013 Warbirds over the Beach” event just last month, with museum staff discussing future plans and ongoing restorations with us that stretched far into the future.
While no official statement has yet been issued by MAM or Yagen, the Museum’s Facebook page disappeared for a time, though it has just resurfaced with new restrictions on user-posting. On the MAM website, links to future air shows have been removed from the front page, most notably their signature WWI Event, Biplanes and Triplanes, which was to be held in the fall, though the page for the event itself is still there, suggesting that MAM staff are scrambling to adjust to the museum’s new course.
Platinum Fighter Sales (PFS) of Redondo Beach, California, has announced on their website: “We’re not just in the sales business, were in the information business. Two weeks ago we learned that the Yagen / Military Aircraft Collection was coming up for sale. Platinum Flighter Sales flew back to Virginia Beach and quickly put together a package deal on the B-17G Flying Fortress and FW-190A8” According to PFS, both planes will be going to and “undisclosed new owner in Oregon.” Pictures of the planes, along with the sale announcements were posted by PFS to their Facebook page yesterday.
Oil billionaire and noted warbird enthusiast, Rod Lewis of Lewis Air Legends in Texas is still rumored to be acquiring a significant portion of the collection. He certainly has the financial ability to take on the lion’s share of the collection, adding to the over 30 warbirds he already has in and around the San Antonio area.
More fuel was added to the speculative fire when news that Kermit Weeks of the Fantasy of Flight collection, had just made, as he put it, his “first-ever visit” to the Military Aviation Museum, though he was already in the area, making a trip to the Smithsonian doing research on the Sikorsky S-43 which he recently acquired.
While speculation over the fate of the planes in the massive Yagen collection as well as the status of the approximately 70 restoration projects in various states of completion continues, others have expressed concern for previously-scheduled MAM aircraft appearances at air shows and the knock-on effects on attendance should these headliners not perform. It’s easy to lose sight of perhaps the most important effects of the break-up of this huge collection. There are a great many people whose livelihoods were tied-in to the Yagen aeronautical empire, from the Yagen-owned Fighter Factory and MAM staff, to the myriad restoration shops and their employees who are dependent on the continuance of their work, not to mention the toll this and whatever precipitated these sales must be for Yagen himself, for whom this must be very trying indeed.
We’ll keep abreast of this story as it continues to develop and as more concrete details emerge, we’ll bring them to you.
6/24/13: After we published this article, the Virginian-Pilot news organization reported, after interviewing Mr. Yagen, that he has sold the vocational schools that were the source of his income and can no longer afford to support the vast collection, stating: “I just don’t have the money anymore.”
6/25/13: The Tillamook Air Museum of Tillamook, Oregon has just issued the following press release:
The Tillamook Air Museum, in cooperation with owner and operator Jack Erickson, do hereby announce the acquisition of a WWII B-17G Bomber “Chuckie” and a German Focke-Wulf 190 to its growing collection of historic flying airplanes. The B-17 will make its journey from the east coast to Tillamook this Saturday and is excepted to arrive on Monday (weather dependent). The FW 190 will soon to follow.
This is certainly good news for warbird enthusiasts on the West Coast, particularly as the Tillamook Air Museum is an institution that maintains their craft in flying condition and gives the public the opportunity to see these historic craft where they were meant to be, in the air.