Aviation enthusiasts looking to catch a glimpse of some vintage airplanes will be pleased to know they can find some right here in the South Valley at the Wings of History Air Museum.
Since its founding, the museum has focused on antique planes constructed prior to 1955, with most of their aircraft being built before WWII.
Museum treasurer Susan Talbot has been involved with Wings of History since the 1980s. Talbot, a retired math instructor and former dean of math and science at Evergreen Community College in San Jose, along with her husband, an aeronautical engineer, began their love affair with antique planes after attending the Watsonville Fly-In. A vintage air show that started in 1964, it was known then as Northern California Antique Airplane Association’s Annual West Coast Antique Fly-In.
The Talbots’ interest was piqued and they purchased a 1939 Funk, an American-built, two-seat cabin monoplane. Theirs was one of 380 Model B Funks built by brothers Howard and Joe Funk. Both licensed pilots, they began flying it all over the country and the next thing they knew, “we were hooked,” says Talbot.
Wings of History Air Museum began in 1975 after its founders had raised enough money to purchase a few acres of land west of Hwy. 101 in San Martin. “Everything we have is either given to us or is on loan,” says Talbot. The site has two hangars and a “prop” shop, where working propellers continue to be built today.
Whether an aviation enthusiast or not, visitors to this antique museum are in for a rare treat. Talbot says, “There are two replicas in this museum. All of the others are original airplanes and have flown.” These machines are a marvel to behold and each has an interesting tale. Talbot shares one story of a bomber replica, called the Marketello Stahltaube. Built in 1980 by Joel Marketello as a ¾-scale model of a 1913 Etrich Stahltaube, the first warbird.
“In 1913 by bomber that meant that you held the bomb in your lap and dropped it over the side,” Talbot says. Inspired by the wings of a Zanonia seed pod, the wings of a Stahltaube resemble a glider, which with the aid of “wing warping” allows the aircraft to be transported easily from one location to the next.
Wings of History is an “all volunteer-run nonprofit,” says Talbot, who adds that “we need more volunteers to keep going.” The museum is understaffed, and some, like Talbot, have taken on numerous responsibilities to maintain the operation.
“I’m the treasurer. I schedule docents on weekends. I’m the bookkeeper— I‘m whatever is needed. I keep the supplies stocked.”
Asked about the future of the organization, Talbot says, “we need lots of help.” Talbot and her fellow aviation enthusiasts are always looking to share the experience with new people who are passionate about vintage flying. Of their 150 dues-paying members, Talbot says there are only “10 to 20 active that are restoring [planes]. There aren’t too many pilots left because we’ve aged out too.”
People looking to volunteer at the Wings of History Museum will find many opportunities to help. One need not be a pilot or an airplane mechanic to get involved, the museum is always on the hunt for new talent to help as docents and modelers, as well as folks interested in aircraft restoration, software/computer techs, curator helpers and general museum assistants.
Wings of History will hold its 16th Annual Open House and Fly-in on Saturday, May 14. This fundraiser is an opportunity for aficionados and novice aviation fans alike to explore the museum and check out aircraft of all kinds, from antique flying machines and warbirds to modern planes. Kids eight years and older can pre-register for a free flight; hot air balloon rides will also be available. In addition to planes, there will also be antique cars, farm equipment, steam engines and yard sales. Continental breakfast and lunch will be served.
As for Wings of History’s future goals, “We have dreams of joining the two buildings,” Talbot says, pointing out two hangars built in the early 1990s. But in order to do that, they need more funding and more volunteers, which means a larger member base. For now, Talbot says, their aim is “getting more members, We’re getting antique, as they say.”
16th Annual Open House and Fly-In
Saturday, May 14
Wings of History Air Museum, 12777 Murphy Ave., San Martin
For more details or to become a volunteer, contact Susan Talbot at (408) 683-2290 or go to wingsofhistory.org