To start, we were introduced to Valiant Air Command by the wonderful folks at Space Coast Fun Guide (thank you for the introduction!). Valiant's Public Relations contact, David Shores, then maintained frequent contact with us in the weeks leading up to our visit. Ultimately, we confirmed a visitation date with David and we were all set.
We pulled up to the very welcoming parking lot (free parking), and the first site that immediately caught my family's attention was the twin turboprop Grumman OV-1C Mohawk ("Whispering Death") positioned within feet of where we parked. Excited to take a photo with it, we noticed one of the museum's volunteers had stepped outside in anticipation of our welcome. As we walked up toward the volunteer, he asked me, "Are you Bailey?" to which I responded, "Yes." He politely greeted us and advised that David was waiting inside the lobby for us and that we needed to do a quick temperature check before we could begin. David introduced himself to us, and we began our tour.
The 2-story lobby area set the tone for the rest of our day's adventure. In the lobby sat a Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, which during its flight days would have a top speed of 318 mph. Today, only a very limited number of these still exist in the world, with this particular survivor on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station (Pensacola FL). To the left of this display, visitors could access the gift shop area. To the right of the display was the area where we saw historic military uniforms, patches, models, and missile / gun displays from US, German, and Japanese forces from long ago. True history buffs could find enough on display here to keep them busy for an entire day, reading through old newspaper clippings and soaking in all of the historical significance located behind these glassed panels.
David then escorted us into the 1st of 3 hangars. The first thought that entered my mind was: "What a truly AWESOME display of beautiful aircraft!" In this one hangar, there was an F-14 Tomcat (popularized in today's pop culture as being the featured supersonic fighter jet in the movie 'Top Gun'). Sitting almost directly beside this was an F-16 Fighting Falcon (the featured fighter aircraft in the 1986 movie 'Iron Eagle.') Standing proudly in the corner was a TBM-3 Avenger, one of the mainstays of the US Navy during World War II, and was the same type of aircraft former President George H.W. Bush flew in the 1940's when he was shot down near the Japanese-occupied Pacific island of Chi Chi Jima. America's first jet fighter, the F80/T-33 Shooting Star, proudly sat toward the center of the space, fully decorated in its patriotic red, white, and blue color-scheme. The UH-19B Chickasaw which served as a rescue helicopter in the 1950's was also on display here. But the flagship beauty in this room was the fully-functioning and capable of actually flying: the 26,000 lb. C-47 Tico Belle, which was responsible for dropping paratroopers into Normandy.
The 2nd area was less flashy but more exclusive: the Hal Larkin - Norm Lindsay Restoration Hangar. In May 2015, this space was dedicated as a memorial to two of its long-time members and supporters. Many of the air beauties that were currently on display needed to pass through this particular hangar prior to being showroom ready, with some aircraft being housed here for years while being repaired, reconditioned, and repainted. One of the aircraft being restored was a McDonnell F-101 Voodoo which served the US and Royal Canadian Air Forces, and would top out at speeds in excess of 1,000 mph! David advised that this portion of our tour was not typically open to the general public, so we were very privileged to see this area for sure!
We made our way over to the Matthews Family Vietnam Memorial Hangar. There was a reception space to this hangar which featured military uniforms and artifacts from more modern day service periods. The hangar itself was just as awesome as the first. Located at the center of this hangar was a fully restored XP-82 Twin Mustang, one of only 5 known to be in existence, making this one of the ultimate flying rarities in the world! Keeping the Twin Mustang company in this space was a Bell 74 (H-13 Sioux) helicopter, which was used as a Medivac during the Korean War, and it was popularized the 1970's / '80's movie and TV series 'M*A*S*H'. Side by side here was an F-100C Super Sabre (America's 1st supersonic jet fighter known as 'The Hun'), and an F/A-18 Hornet (this one was still adorning its blue 'Blue Angels' colors and markings).
In all, 50 impressive aircraft are currently domiciled at Valiant Air Command. The grounds are immaculately clean, and the aircraft were all kept in pristine condition. With these each being so beautiful, it was somewhat difficult to find out that 8 of these aircraft were actually capable of taking flight. It's one thing for these stunning showpieces to be aesthetically pleasing, with new paint, and every square inch of the aircraft to be polished and restored, but to imagine that these not only looked amazing, but that they could actually fly? "Amazing" is a severe understatement here.
Valiant was founded in 1971, and operated by volunteers. I asked David which group was financially responsible for covering the upkeep and maintenance on these warbirds, and he told me that's why Valiant had to charge admission fees. You would be very hard-pressed to find another display of this historical significance anywhere else in the US.
Most every guy that I know would appreciate walking through here: we love seeing memorabilia and shiny things. Valiant is the mother of all shiny experiences. Initially I was concerned if my wife and 2 daughters (13 and 15 years old) were going to be bored with this visit: and I was very incorrect with that, as they ended up taking more selfies than I did this time! Valiant Air Museum gets an enthusiastic '2 thumbs up' from me. If you are looking for something very safe and different to visit with your family, I could not endorse this place any more: it's super-cool and you will not be disappointed!