Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Minter Air Field and Museum

Minter Air Field and Museum

Minter Air Field is a great little place to go and there are always a lot of warbirds to see. Not too many people, easy to get in and out of, and surrounded by aviation history.

Minter began operations in June of 1941 and served as an active airfield for the 7,000 US Army personnel stationed there for training during World War II. It was a city within itself and by the end of the war in 1945 had served in training 11,0000 US Army Air Corps Cadets. Shortly thereafter, the the airfield was turned over to the County of Kern which managed the airport until 1985. Today the 1,206-acre site is operated by Minter Field Airport District – a private group of local avaiation enthusiasts, dedicated to preserving the golden years of flight.

The main attraction for visitors is the the museum. Located in a fire station built in 1941 it remains as one of the few original structures on the grounds. The museum houses numerous artifacts, including photographs, uniforms, aviation headgear, radio gear, models and many pieces of aviation art. A few highlights are several beautfully resotored military aircraft and utility vehicles that includes an Aeronca L3B "Grasshopper", Vultee BT-13 Valiant, Fokker DR.1 Tri-plane --as flown by the Red Baron, 1928 home built Pietenpol Sky Camper, Link Trainer, 1945 Minter Field fire truck, 1940s era Plymouth Staff car, military jeeps and a German Railroad cannon.

After you have finished your tour of the museum you will want to visit the gift shop and have lunch at the Brookside CafĂ© where you can enjoy a great sandwich with a one-of-a-kind, front-row view of airplanes coming in for a landing. Minter Field is also a hub for vintage aircraft restoration, with several shops that specialize in WWII aircraft. Don’t forget to pop into a few, as most are willing to give you a private tour of the fascinating work they are doing.

Plan on an hour or two for your visit. The weather can get very hot in the summer months reaching temperatures of over 100. So the best time to visit is in in the fall or spring.

Minter Air Museum is located 12 miles North of Bakersfield on Highway 99, exit Lerdo Highway, then go approximately one mile west. They are open Saturdays from 10AM –2PM. Museum admission and parking are free but donations are accepted. Minter Field has been the sight of the Warbirds In Action Air Show for the past 16 years. Check with the museum for the current year’s event.

Although the Minter Air Field is worth the trip alone, there are a couple of interesting places close by to see while your in the area. Just five miles to the west is the town of Shafter and the site of the Green Hotel and Shafter Depot Museum. The hotel is the town’s oldest commercial building constucted in 1913 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a California Point of Interest. The Depot museum is housed in an old Santa Fe Railroad building and offers railroad as well as local history exhibits. Adjacent to the museum is the Harlin P. Wilson Agricultural Museum, containing various agricultural exhibits and displays.

The Green Hotel is located in downtown Shafter near the corner of Central Avenue and James Street and is open by invitation throughout the year and for private tours. For details, call 661-746-1913. The Depot Museum is free and open very Saturday of the month from 10 am - 2 pm. It is located at 150 Central Valley Highway Shafter, CA. By Matthew Martz