The Typhlological Aeronautical Museum (MΛT) is a new open-air venue accessible to all and adapted for the visually and hearing impaired, where visitors are provided with information through both sight (the traditional means) and touch. In order to help the visitor’s understanding and enjoyment of the museum, the MΛT uses an easy-to-install QR code system, which provides immediate access to the contents of all exhibits in the museum, thus offering the visitor detailed information of each and every model exhibited throughout the circuit.
The relationship of San Javier with aeronautics is both close and old. The first airfield in the municipality dates back to 1920, when the Spanish Navy decided to build its first naval air station in Santiago de la Ribera as the main base of the Spanish Naval Aviation. After the Spanish Civil War, in July 1943, the military academy of the Spanish Air Force (AGA) was created with the purpose of standardising Air Force officers’ training and it was located at the military facilities of the municipality of San Javier. The uninterrupted operation of air activities during over a century and its prestige as a flight training school have turned this military air base in San Javier into a worldwide reference.
The persistence of an aeronautical culture among the inhabitants of San Javier can be explained not only by their coexistence and the people’s admiration for Aviation but also by the emotional and socioeconomic factors entailed by the arrival of the Air Force to the municipality.
The prosperity that developed in the 1920s with the arrival of the Spanish Naval Aviation in what was then a small fishing village increased with the creation of the AGA, which boosted growth not only in Santiago de la Ribera but in the whole municipality thanks to the modernisation of basic and supply infrastructures. The arrival of the Air Force led to the construction of the colony “Julio Ruiz de Alda”, new primary and secondary schools and entailed the development of new services to accommodate the growing population that came with the foundation of the AGA in San Javier.
Aeronautics in San Javier has achieved great milestones, such as the celebration of the Aire06 Festival, which was organised by the Air Force on the beaches of Santiago de la Ribera and brought together more than 500,000 people and more than one hundred aircrafts at a festival that won the award for Best European Air Festival in 2006 awarded by the European Air Show Council. The celebration of the AGA’s 75th Anniversary in 2018 was another example of the close relationship between the military institution and the City Council of San Javier. This celebration consisted of a series of joint events, which culminated in another crowded air festival and contributed to the consolidation of San Javier as the heart of aeronautical culture in Spain.
The history of Spanish Aviation is closely linked to the municipality of San Javier and specifically to the town of Santiago de la Ribera, whose magnificent flight conditions have allowed for the performance of more than a million flight hours from 1920 (when Spanish Naval Aviation arrived) to 2020. A century of relationship between San Javier and aeronautics are exhibited in this open air MΛT.
The exhibits currently displayed in the MΛT are a three-dimensional photocall, five models of the most characteristic aircrafts throughout the air base’s history (Dornier J “Wal”, Beechcraft T-34 “Mentor”, North American T-6 “Texan”, Hispano Ha-200 “Saeta” and CASA C-101 “Mirlo”), and five benches designed to catch the essence of each aircraft, reproducing the colour and aircraft insignia that characterizes them visually.
The three-dimensional photocall is a space in which visitors can capture the moment so that they can have an unforgettable family memory of their stay in Santiago de la Ribera. It portrays a family of pilots, highlighting the utter coincidence that there is a married couple of pilots currently serving as members of the aerobatic Patrulla Águila (eagle patrol), with which San Javier wants to highlight the presence of both men and women committed to Spain in the Army and pay tribute to the “military family” in a symbolical manner.
The exhibition begins with the typical aircraft in the Naval Air Station at that time (1920-1939), the hydroplane, among which the German Dornier J “Wal” stood out. This was one of the best-known aircrafts during that period and continued to be flown until the end of the Civil War. The “Wal” performed several deeds, such as being the first plane to reach the North Pole with Ronald Amundsen. Another of the landmarks of this plane was carried out by the Spaniards Ramón Franco, Julio Ruiz de Alda, Pablo Rada and Juan Manuel Durán in 1926, when they crossed the South Atlantic covering 10,270 kilometres.
In 1958, the Academy received the Beechcraft T-34 “Mentor”, which proved to be one of the best teaching aircrafts in the history of San Javier. Kings Juan Carlos I and Felipe VI trained as pilots in it; the former during the first year of operation of this model and the latter in 1989, the Mentor’s last year of operation. It is considered the safest aircraft in the history of the AGA.
In 1962, another mythical plane arrived at the Academy. The North American T-6 “Texan”, which was mainly used as an advanced trainer and reconnaissance aircraft and took part in the Sidi Ifni and Sahara conflicts. The “Texan” continued to be flown until 1982, when it was replaced by the C-101.
In 1972, flight training in the AGA was enhanced by receiving the Hispano Ha-200 “Saeta” aircraft, the first jet aircraft manufactured in Spain, with two turbines, a tandem cockpit and a cruise speed of 600 km/h. In Spain, the Saeta was operational between 1962 and 1981, the AGA being the last unit equipped with this aircraft model.
In 1980, the CASA C-101 “Mirlo” aircraft, made in Spain, arrived at the AGA. It meant a great qualitative leap for flight training and has since then become the longest operating aircraft at AGA. The C-101, which is considered an excellent flight trainer and which reaches speeds of 770km/h, will go down in history for enabling the creation of the famous Patrulla Águila. In 1985, a group of instructors, taking advantage of the C-101’s capabilities, decided to create an aerobatic team that was baptized the Patrulla Águila and which has ever since increased the prestige of the AGA, representing the Air Force and making San Javier known all around the World.