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Fagen Fighter Museum Plans Grand Opening Next Weekend

Home of Twilight Tear, Ruff Stuff in central Minnesota

The Aviators
Fagen Fighters World War II Museum in Granite Falls, Minnesota, ready for its grand opening on September 29.

Gen. Omar Bradley's D-Day Jeep
Gen. Omar Bradley's D-Day Jeep displayed near the P-40 Desert Shark and P-51 Sweet Revenge.

Ray Fagen leads the charge onto Utah Beach
Ray Fagen leads the charge onto Utah Beach in the museum's signature display, which includes actual sand from the Normandy beach.

September 19, 2012 - A new museum featuring some very well-known flying warbirds as well as several significant military vehicles holds its grand opening next weekend in Granite Falls, Minnesota. The Fagen Fighters World War II Museum opens officially to the public Saturday, September 29, on the Lenzen-Roe Memorial Airport (Granite Falls Municipal - GDB).

A fleet of eight distinguished warbirds, owned by longtime EAA/Warbirds/Vintage/IAC member Ron Fagen, are hangared in the new 15,000-square-foot brick structure. They include a Fairchild PT-19, Ryan PT-22, Fairchild PT-26, Vultee BT-13, Curtiss P-40 Desert Shark, P-38 Ruff Stuff, and a pair of P-51s - Sweet Revenge and Twilight Tear (which is featured in the current issue of EAA Sport Aviation). There's also a rare Waco CG-4A glider that's cut away to show its extensive workmanship.

Ground vehicles in the collection include a Ford GP (Jeep) used by Gen. Omar Bradley during the D-Day Invasion, an M3 halftrack Troop Carrier (M16 version), an M35A2 (deuce and a half) cargo truck, a Harley Davidson WLA, and a Cushman Scooter Model 54. Along with the large hangar, the museum constructed a Quonset hut briefing room, dedicated to WWII triple ace C.E. "Bud" Anderson and the other P-51 pilots making up the 357th Fighter Group. The museum in fact recreates England's Leiston Field, home of the 357th's Yoxford Boys.

Greg Gibson, who manages the facility, called the grand opening a "big invitation to the flying and driving public" to come and see the museum, which includes a poignant tribute to Fagen's father, Ray, who landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. The museum's signature display, it depicts Ray and his comrades exiting a landing craft onto the beach, which includes actual sand from Utah Beach.

Planned events during the day include a presentation on Sweet Revenge at 10 a.m. and a USO-style show at 2 p.m. Pilots are encouraged to fly into GDB, and flying activities are also planned during the day, weather permitting, so check the museum's website for the latest details.

The museum also has a re-created WWII control tower, complete with authentic radio display and equipment, and the main building has the largest wind-loaded (190 mph) Schweiss Bifold door ever built - an 80-foot wide door weighing 75,000 pounds. Ron Fagen wanted the museum buildings built to withstand up to an F-3 tornado.

Hours for the grand opening are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. There is no admission charged, but donations are greatly appreciated. EAA Vice President of Chapters and Youth Education Jeff Skiles and Young Eagles Manager Brian O'Lena are planning to attend the grand opening.

Tyler Stargardt

Former Young Eagle to Get Aviation Dream Weekend

A silent auction item offered at the Gathering of Eagles event during AirVenture 2011 was a special flight package donated by the new Fagen Fighters World War II Museum in Granite Falls, Minnesota: flights in four of its vintage warbirds. Bill Bachschmidt, EAA Lifetime 744708, of Inglis, Florida, was the high bidder, but he chose to donate the prize back to EAA.

Tyler Stargardt, of Marshfield, Wisconsin - the first Young Eagle to earn his private pilot certificate after completing the Sporty's Online Course - will accompany EAA's Jeff Skiles and Brian O'Lena to the museum's grand opening next Friday and he'll get to experience flights in the museum's PT-19, BT-13, and T-6. On Saturday he'll get the final flight of the prize package, in the P-51 Sweet Revenge. "Like a cadet would progress through flight training," said the museum's Greg Gibson.

Tyler, who earned his private pilot certificate in June 2010, his instrument rating this past March, and is currently working on his commercial ticket, learned about the opportunity in August.

"I was at work when I got the call from EAA, asking if I had anything scheduled September 28-29," he said. After making sure his calendar was clear, Tyler called back and learned about the experience they had in store for him.

"They told me I would be picked up in Marshfield on Friday the 28th and fly over to Western Minnesota and get to fly in those awesome airplanes," he said. After about 10 seconds of shocked silence, he of course gladly accepted the offer. "It's unbelievable! To get to fly three trainers and a P-51, I can't wait!"

Tyler will earn his associate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Wood County this spring and then head to Minnesota State University in Mankato next fall and enter the aviation program.

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