Aviation museum soars with recent, planned acquisitions

March 19, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - J. Allen Clopper saw the first takeoff of a Fairchild C-82 Packet in the 1940s.

The 91-year-old Hagerstown resident said he saw the airplane's final landing in 2006 at Hagerstown Regional Airport, and said he is the only person to have seen both.

"Just by pure coincidence," he said. "Just by keeping breathing."

Clopper, who worked for Fairchild Industries for 30 years, was at a reception Sunday that Hagerstown Aviation Museum President Kurtis Meyers said was a "thank you" to those who donated money to bring a recently acquired Fairchild C-82 Packet to Hagerstown.

"I had a part in bringing the C-82 back here," Clopper said.

Frank Lamm, who spoke during the reception, had two hands in bringing the plane to Hagerstown. He piloted the aircraft on its return journey. While talking about the flight he took in October 2006, he described a ride that would have been unsettling for most.


"We could smell a little gasoline when we got on the plane," he said. "They said that would go away."

But it was a rewarding trip, Lamm said. When he and the others onboard landed the aircraft in Hagerstown, they were met by many people who were cheering, including one man who Lamm remembered having tears in his eyes.

"He told me, 'I put rivets in that airplane,'" Lamm said, also wiping tears from his eyes.

Of the more than 250 people who watched a presentation about the aircraft Sunday, most of those interviewed said they had contributed or worked at Fairchild.

Widespread publicity surrounding the Hagerstown Aviation Museum's purchase of the Fairchild C-82 Packet has led to donations of at least three more aircraft. Meyers said a Fairchild PT-19, a Fairchild C-119 and a North American AT-6 Texan have been donated since December 2006.

Tom Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that the donation of the three aircraft gives the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, which has been operating for about two years, the largest collection of aircraft of any Maryland aviation museum.

He said the volunteer organization has done "so much in so little time."

The next step for the museum will be raising enough money to bring two of the newly donated aircraft to Hagerstown. The Fairchild C-119 is in Wyoming and will need to undergo $50,000 to $100,000 in repairs before it can be flown, Meyers said.

The North American AT-6 Texan will cost significantly less to transport because it will be hauled by truck.

He said museum officials are counting on the same level of community support received for the Fairchild C-82 Packet while raising money for the new aircraft.

Until a dedicated site for the museum is built, the planes are stored at Hagerstown Regional Airport, Meyers said.

Charity auction planned

The Hagerstown Aviation Museum is collecting items for a charity auction planned for September. The proceeds will go toward the operation of the museum and the upkeep of the museum's collection of artifacts and aircraft. Valuable antiques, old and new furniture, tools, household items, vehicles and anything of value will be sold during the live auction. For information, call Kurtis Meyers at 717-377-3030 or 301-733-8717.

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