Collections Lost

The next morning, Executive Director Owen Clarke stood by worriedly as firefighters continued to pour water onto the smoldering rubble. Wanting to get closer, he explained, “I knew where everything was and was anxious to see if we could save any of the engines.” Fifty-five airplanes, the Prudden Historical Aviation Library valued at $1 million, and all of the portraits and memorabilia housed in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame were destroyed. Some “survivors” included archival photographs in file metal cabinets and a specimen of moon rock stored overnight in a fire-resistant safe.

Many of the aircraft on display had been donated by aerospace firms that pioneered aviation. Some planes were on loan from other museums throughout the country, including the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Some of the prized aircraft included a Japanese Zero, a Fleet PT-3, a Ryan M-1, a Curtiss “Jenny,” a Mercury space capsule and copies of Gemini and Apollo capsules, a replica of John J. Montgomery’s glider, Ted Hall’s flying automobile were all lost in the fire.  Also destroyed was the world's smallest airplane, the Wee Bee:

From top left to right, is the tail of the Ryan XV-5 Vertifan, the Laister Kauffmann TG-4 (striped tail), the Ryan FR-1 Fireball (wings folded up), the Sikorsky HO4S helicopter, and the Curtiss Pusher (replica, upper right). In the center is the Curtiss KD2C Skeet Drone, and to the right is the Beech MQM Cardinal Drone. Bottom left is the Ryan BQM-34 Drone, and bottom right is the Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star.

Other Unique Aircraft Lost Included:

The Spirit of No. Dakota (c/n 23), an original Ryan M-1 built in 1927, was the first Ryan plane Charles Lindbergh flew in a test flight during his initial visit to San Diego. The Ryan NYP, is a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis.

This 1916 Sopwith Tri wing was a flying reproduction, built by Earl Tavan and Lou Stolp in 1968.

The Queen Bee was built in 1957 at Montgomery Field by the Bee Aviation Associates, Inc.

Ted Hall’s 1938 flying automobile.

An original 1917 Curtiss JN-4D “Jenny”.

An original WWII Japanese Mitsubishi Zero, salvaged from the ocean and restored.

Example of archival material nearly destroyed in the fire.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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