A Visit to The Dakota Territory Air Museum

Roving Reporter Nigel Hitchman Visits A Warbird and Classics-Packed Aviation Museum



By Nigel Hitchman

It’s a long drive out to Minot, ND. In August 2023 that was my target after Oshkosh, 800 miles and around 12 hours non stop, but I took the scenic route via a few other museums and places of interest. It’s well worth taking the time to visit though, because it’s an excellent museum detailing a lot of North Dakota aviation history and a fabulous collection of aircraft. I knew that many of the warbirds were there, but was also surprised at the number of interesting vintage aircraft on display too: a really great collection, well displayed with good information, but not cluttered as some museums tend to become.

The external display, appropriately featuring a Douglas transport, named ‘Dakota’ in British Commonwealth military use. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
The museum is open mid-May to mid-October, and as their website states: “Founded in 1986, the Dakota Territory Air Museum has proudly evolved into a significant historical depository honoring the men, women and machines that have impacted the rich history of aviation. Through displays and events that inspire, educate and entertain, the museum has become a viable and important historical resource for our region and the state of North Dakota.

“North Dakota native, Oswin H. Elker, served with distinction in WWII as a P-40 Warhawk pilot with the Flying Tigers. He was shot down twice and escaped both times through enemy territory. Oswin was impassioned with the museum’s mission. His financial generosity after his passing resulted in the construction of the Oswin Elker Hangar.”

The Oswin Elker Hangar is filled with civilian aircraft, commercial displays, Carl “Ben” Eielson history, and early North Dakota aviation history: everything from a replica 1910 Curtiss Pusher to a Beech 18.

Recent restoration Republic P-47D Thunderbolt NX4747D “Bonnie”. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

The second main hangar is the newer Flying Legends hangar, which contains a fabulous collection of WWII aircraft. Some of these were associated with the Texas Flying Legends collection which was managed by museum leading light and former owner/operator of the local FBO, Warren Pietsch, and operated in conjunction with the Dakota Territory Air Museum. They used to spend that majority of the year in Texas but would come here in the summer. More recently with one partner deciding to sell his part of the collection, the hangar at Ellington, TX was sold and they moved here permanently. Quite a few new aircraft have also been added since with more to come.

North American P-51C Mustang N5528N, the famous “Thunderbird”. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

The two newest additions completed in 2023 are Warren’s amazing P-51C Thunderbird and DTAM’s P-47D Bonnie, both of which were stars of Oshkosh, joining two other recent additions P-51D Mustang Miss Kitty and P-51C Mustang Lope’s Hope, which was another Oshkosh award winner.

The Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXc MK959/N959RT was operational with 302, 329 and 145 Squadrons of the RAF from 1944, including combat missions over Normandy just after D-day, and later joined the Dutch Air Force as H-15. Eventually it ended up displayed on a pole at Eindhoven Airbase before being taken down and joining the Dutch Spitfire flight in the early 1990s, but was soon sold before restoration began and ended up near Houston where it was fully restored, flying again in 2004. It was based with a collection at Millville, NJ from 2007 until it joined the DTAM in 2015 (as reported by Vintage Aviation News).

The Hawker Hurricane “BG974” was originally built as RCAF 5708 and was lost in a forced landing near Gander in July 1944. Recovered in 1972, it initially went to Texas for restoration between 1972 and 1980 and then left for Connecticut, before being bought by the Lone Star Flight Museum at Galveston. There it was restored by Ray Middleton in Colorado flying again in 2006, but not long after delivery it was involved in a landing accident when the late Bill Greenwood’s Spitfire ran into the back of it. Shortly afterward the airframe was further badly damaged by the floods from Hurricane Ike which ripped through the area in September 2008, so the aircraft went back to Ray Middleton for another restoration. Having been sold to the DTAM during the restoration, it flew again in 2021.

Curtiss P-40E Warhawk N2416X was delivered as USAAC 41-5709 but crashed on landing at Cold Bay, Alaska in September 1942. After stripping for spares the wreck was buried and then recovered in the 1980s, restored by Tom Reilly for Don Brooks/Liberty Foundation, making its first flight in August 2009. Later sold to Walt Bowe in January 2013 it became part of the DTAM collection in August 2014.

Douglas C-47 ‘The Duchess of Dakota’ N534BE.[Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

N52413/44-32763 is a rare L-6 liaison version of the Interstate S-1A Cadet trainer, with the extended glazing on the rear fuselage behind the wing. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
A standard Interstate S-1A Cadet, NC37217. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
Curtiss MR-1 N28CD was built for the film The Great Race in 1964 and is powered by a Continental C-85. It last flew in 1986 and was then displayed in the terminal in Minneapolis before becoming part of DTAM in recent years. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
NC530A is a very rare Arrow Sport biplane powered by a Le Blond radial engine, one of only four on public view with a similar number in private collections. DTAM also has an Arrow Sport F monoplane restoration project. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

Warren Pietsch has two superb Monocoupes that are both often on display in the museum, but this day the Model 110 NC114V was in the museum and the 110 Special N101H was in his hangar at the FBO. The 110 Special was the third factory built clip wing after Johnny Livingstone requested the factory to clip the wings of his original 110 to make it faster for air racing. N101H was also re-engined with a bigger 185hp Warner during its restoration by Jim Kimball for John McCulloch in the 1990s. It has since been restored and repainted again, being completed in 2011.

N2901V is a rare CallAir A-3 powered by a 125 hp Continental. Just over 30 of the A-3 and similar A-2 were built in the late 1940s in Wyoming. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]
N5132, a 1928 Waco 10, was restored by the late Gerry Beck (now owned by his wife Cindy) in the 1980s. The project has a Hispano Suiza engine, but it has been restored with a Curtiss OX-5, both engines being originally available on the type from the factory. [Photo by Nigel Hitchman]

Array

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