Commemorative Air Force opens new hangar

BROWNSVILLE — The Rio Grande Valley Wing of the Commemorative Air Force is settling into its new home at the Port Isabel-Cameron County Airport, and its members are inviting aviation enthusiasts to lend them a hand or go for a spin.

Volunteers helped during an open house at the new hangar and offered rides in the World War II-era aircraft. David Hughston, finance officer and air show chair, said the group moved its airplanes and museum from the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport about two months ago to make way for a new passenger terminal.

“We hope by being out here closer to Port Isabel and Laguna Vista, we’ll attract aviation enthusiasts who want to come out and participate with us,” said Hughston, standing near a bright yellow 1929 Fleet Finch. “As time goes by, we’ll do more of these.”

He said CAF volunteers will be at the hangar from 9 a.m. to about noon every Saturday starting in July, maintaining the aircraft and vehicles and working on the museum, which is located inside the hangar. It will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., depending on foot traffic, Wednesday through Saturday.

“It’s a big job building and maintaining a transportation museum, and we want the people to share in the same love of aviation we have,” he said. “We think it could be a popular destination for tourists and put the airport on the map.”

The group held its first air show in 1991, and Hughston said it has its next one planned for June 22-23, 2019. The group’s hangar boasts a collection of aircraft that includes a Cessna T-50, also called the “bamboo bomber,” Piper L-4, a Globe Swift and a Fairchild PT-19.

Tom Santos, executive officer of the Valley wing, said the group has plenty of opportunities for volunteers to help on the museum side, as well. Members had to pare down the exhibits to fit in a smaller space, and they’re working to organize and preserve artifacts that will have to be stored.

“We tell the story of how we got involved in World War II, and the story of the people,” he said, with a focus on the experience of men and women from the Valley.

Santos said the organization is in need of grant writers who can help it apply for funding to move into a bigger facility that will be constructed closer to the airport entrance. Volunteers can get involved by calling him at (956) 579-2611.

The airport is located at 27617 Buena Vista Blvd., but the road south of the building is closed. Visitors can access the area via General Brant Road, and then turn onto Veterans Airport Drive. Find more information at