Persistence pays off.

Some time back, I was afforded an opportunity to view the private collection of airplanes of the late Walter Soplata. Soplata had once worked at a scrapyard that was tasked with destroying thousands of planes after the World Wars and the early Cold War. Distraught by the rare airplanes that were being routinely scrapped, Walter acquired some land east of Cleveland in 1947 and dedicated the remainder of his life to collecting aircraft and their engines, beginning with a late-1920’s American Eagle biplane. It was followed up with a Vultee BT-15 trainer, then a Vought/Goodyear GF-1D Corsair and a G2G Corsair with an experimental R-4360 engine.

Each aircraft typically cost just a few hundred dollars, or what the scrap value was for the immobilized unit. Many of the airplanes have since been sold to aviation museums across the United States, including the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Florida, the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland and the New England Air Museum in Connecticut.

More on Walter’s airplanes »