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Museum site goes down in flames

The Florida Military Aviation Museum is still looking for a place to relocate. But Oldsmar is no longer in the running.

Museum officials said an available parcel of land in Oldsmar was simply too small for their needs. They were considering some vacant land near the intersection of state roads 580 and 584.

"The willingness of the city of Oldsmar to work with us was just wonderful," said Juel Schuler, vice president of the museum. "It (the land) was just too small. There was no room for growth."

For 17 years, the outdoor aviation museum has camped for free on about 8 acres near the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. It features 18 airplanes and helicopters dating from World War II to Desert Storm. Plans include an 8,000-square-foot building with an exhibit area and instruction room.

The museum must move by Oct. 31 because Jet Executive wants to buy the land and operate an airplane fuel and maintenance service there.

Museum officials began courting Tampa Bay area cities for a new site between 6 and 10 acres. But the Oldsmar parcel would amount to only 3.7 acres. Even if land from a nearby senior center were included, the site would only be 4.6 acres.

"I wish it could have worked out," said Mayor Jerry Beverland. "Oldsmar tried. We'll just go after something else."

Schuler said museum officials are investigating sites in Tampa, Venice and Zephyrhills. But they hope to stay in the Tampa Bay area, she said.

"Our work crew and volunteers are primarily from the Pinellas-Hillsborough area. The closer we are, the smaller the journey to take those aircraft," Schuler said. "It would be much easier to go to Tampa than it would be to go to Venice."

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