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Flying antiques over Gig Harbor: Duo plans to open vintage plane display hangar

A hangar full of antique airplanes are this duo’s labor of love

Bob Juranich and Bob Johnson built antique planes for the last 30 years. Now, they have 15 of them and counting. Their work are on display in the Point Fosdick Antique Airplane Hangar at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, Wash.
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Bob Juranich and Bob Johnson built antique planes for the last 30 years. Now, they have 15 of them and counting. Their work are on display in the Point Fosdick Antique Airplane Hangar at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, Wash.

Meet Bob and Bob, two friends brought together over 30 years ago thanks to their love of the internal combustion engine and flying.

“I love oil and combustion engines,” Bob Johnson said. “There is something about making them go that I love.”

Johnson, a restorer of vintage motorcycles, cars and planes, has been working with his friend Bob Juranich, a private pilot and plane collector, on over 15 vintage planes for the past few decades.

It takes two to three years to bring an antique or vintage plane back to life, but now that their collection has grown and will keep growing, both Bobs decided it was time to open their vintage hangar at the Tacoma Narrows Airport to the public as a type of living museum.

“I don’t like to use the word museum much,” Juranich said. “Because a museum indicates the pieces are dead. These planes all still fly. This is a working hangar. I want people to see these in action.”

Working art, passion on display

For Juranich and Johnson, the soon-to-be Point Fosdick Antique Airplane Hangar has a piece of their hearts inside.

Towards the front of the hangar is a restored 1914 Ford Model-T, which starts to rumble with a crank of the handle. The Ford belongs to Johnson, whose father found the car in a burned down barn in Fife in 1960. Johnson said he sat inside the car while his father restored the engine and his mother reupholstered the ceiling and seats. A family heirloom, the car sits between two large planes inside the hangar.

“It was a complete car when Dad got it, so there is no reproduction parts,” Johnson said. “It feels special to have it here.”

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Bob Johnson in the driver seat of a 1914 Ford Model T. at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. Johnson said his father restored the car in Puyallup in the 1960s. Bob Juranich and Bob Johnson built antique planes for the last 30 years. Now, they have 15 of them and counting. Their work are on display in the Point Fosdick Antique Airplane Hangar at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, Wash. David Montesino dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

Juranich also has a piece of his personal history sitting in the museum. A brilliant yellow Piper Cub sits towards the back corner of the hangar, the same one Juranich used to learn to how to fly in Basehor, Kansas as a teen.

“Flying is my addiction,” Juranich said. “Some people like to fly, some people have to fly.”

Juranich said planes stole his heart as a teen, but vintage planes are a way of traveling back in time.

You can take the Model-T Ford on the freeway, but it won’t be like driving it in 1914,” Juranich said. “But when you take one of these planes in the sky, you smell the smells, hit the bugs and see the sights. It’s almost exactly like it was when the first owners were flying.”

Juranich and Johnson plan to have at least 12 planes, a group of vintage motorcycles and a couple engines on display at the museum, which will open in September.

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Bob Juranich said his father owned an airport in Basehor, Kansas, and they always had airplanes to fly. The Piper Cab in which he learned to fly as a teenager is now on display inside his hanger at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. Bob Juranich and Bob Johnson built antique planes for the last 30 years. Now, they have 15 of them and counting. Their work are on display in the Point Fosdick Antique Airplane Hangar at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, Wash. David Montesino dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

The duo find planes and motorcycles in junkyards, barns and estate sales across the country. Together they find the pieces and parts to make the plane shine in its original beauty, something that isn’t always easy to do. Juranich referenced the WACO YMF as an example. In 1934, the Phillips head screw was not yet invented.

“Those were invented after WWII,” Juranich said. “So we can’t use those to rebuild this plane. Every piece of material on this plane would be the material you would of found back in the 1930s.”

Juranich and Johnson have been planning to open a display hanger for years and received support from Pierce County after they decided to open the display at Juranich’s hanger.

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For Johnson, his favorite plane is the 1920 Command Air, the oldest plane in the hanger painted in a stark orange and black pattern.

“It really has an antique feel to it,” Johnson said.

Juranich’s is the glamorous black and white 1924 WACO YMF, a luxury plane custom built for those rich enough to order them.

“Flying the Commander is like driving a truck, where flying the WACO is like driving a sports car,” Juranich said. “These planes were built strictly for fun.”

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The Bobs hope to open Sept. 18. The entry fee will keep the hangar open and help Johnson restore the planes to make them fly. The hangar will include guided tours or free walking tours, community events, public speakers and aviation movies. The hanger also will become available to rent for wedding receptions and other private events.

Juranich said he wants to inspire young people to become pilots and mechanics, so the planes can stay in the air.

“We want to keep these alive,” Juranich said.

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Bob Juranich watches planes take off at Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, from his hangar. Juranich is flanked by two of the machines on display in his hanger: a 1934 Waco, left, and a 1914 Ford Model T. Bob Juranich and Bob Johnson built antique planes for the last 30 years. Now, they have 15 of them and counting. Their work are on display in the Point Fosdick Antique Airplane Hangar at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, Wash. David Montesino dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

Johnson said he is excited to see his “artwork” on display at the hangar.

“This is my dream job,” Johnson said. “Since I was a kid I loved planes. There’s no retiring for me because this is what I want to do.”

Juranich said he hopes to see the community come to the hangar to watch the planes fly and learn more about the history of aviation.

“It’s great to see young people learn about this,” Juranich said. “It’s awesome to see them watch the planes and realize the joy of flying.”

Point Fosdick Antique Airplane Hangar

What: A collection of antique airplanes, motorcycles and cars

Where: Tacoma Narrows Airport

When: Opens Sept. 18

Cost: TBD

Extra: The hanger will host the “Fly-In Drive-In Movie” event in partnership with the Gig Harbor Film Festival from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Aug. 25. Cost for the event is $5 and the movie “Planes: Fire and Rescue” will be projected on the side of a nearby hangar.

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie
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