A Museum with a Mission
Established in 1970, the Kunovice Air Museum is operated by the Slovácký Aeroklub and has held its current location at the Kunovice airport, in the south-east of the Czech Republic, since 1991.
The air museum at Kunovice focuses primarily on aircraft built by the Let company, which has its headquarters at the Kunovice airport. Let was originally established as a branch of the Prague based Avia company in 1936 assigned to do maintenance on Avia built aircraft. Let came into its own as a manufacturer in the early 1950s initially by producing designs of other companies; the prototype of their own L-200 Morava light passenger aircraft made its maiden flight in 1957.
Let’s flagship L-410 Turbolet commuter aircraft is quite well represented and the museum has assembled something of a time line of the machine’s development where you can see the XL-410 prototypes sitting alongside early and mid production variants and take in the subtle differences between them. With an example of the unsuccessful L-610 present, it also allows the visitor to compare the Turbolet with what could have replaced it; the size differential between the L-410 and L-610 is quite noticeable.
Beyond Let’s own aircraft, there are examples of other manufacturers’ aircraft also on display that Let had involment with. The Aero L-29 Delfín military training jet and Ae-45 touring aircraft are two examples of such aircraft.
The museum’s collection also includes a selection of former Czechoslovak air force aircraft including MiG-15, MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighter jets as well as Sukhoi Su-7 attack aircraft, a Mil Mi-4 helicopter and two variants of the Avia Av-14 transport, the Av-14 being the Czech license built version of the Illyushin Il-14.
The Power of Many
We all know that great things can’t be accomplished without help and the museum in Kunovice certainly would not be where it is today without making a lot of friends.
Let’s take a look at some of what the museum has accomplished with the help of others in recent years:
2016: A new entry building housing the museum cash desk and souvenir shop was put in place to give visitors a much better impression when they enter the museum than the previous structure for the purpose did. The selection of souvenirs available includes a number of items uniquely themed to the museum, including: coffee mugs, T-shirts, stickers, patches, postcards and more.
2017: The museum added a small extension to their entry building to house a display dedicated to the locally produced Let L-200 Morava aircraft. The display was put in place on the 60th anniversary of the aircraft’s first flight.
2016-2017: The municipality of Kunovice granted the museum generous land expansions which will allow for the current collection of aircraft to be better displayed and added to.
2016-2018: After a few years of hard work and a very successful internet crowdfunding campaign, the museum was able to transport a former Czech air force Tupolev Tu-154M aircraft from Prague to Kunovice by road. The aircraft, named “Nagano Express”, was used to fly the Czech gold medal winning Olympic ice hockey team home from the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
With the amount of money raised through the crowdfunding project, the museum was able to do a great deal of work on the aircraft and make it a crown jewel in their collection.
The museum was able to afford a fresh set of fasteners to reassemble the aircraft with as well as enough money to give the aircraft a fresh coat of paint and a full interior refurbishment that included an audio visual presentation. The museum was also be able to provide concrete hardstands for the aircraft to keep it from sinking into the ground.
Since 2018, the “Nagano Express” has been sitting proudly on its concrete footings and restored to the paint scheme it wore at the time it brought the gold medal winning hockey team home from Japan in 1998. It’s possible to go inside the aircraft and explore the restored interiors as well.
The museum has allowed the “Nagano Express” to be used as a set for films on more than one occasion since putting it on display.
2019: The museum added a small indoor display hall on their property. The display hall houses three aircraft and their is a small placard at the entrance of the hall that shows the flags of countries where the museum had visits or help from the citizens of to make the building possible.
2020: This was the Museum’s 50th anniversary year and the museum entered into a partnership with the Brno Technical Museum. The partnership allows for the loaning of aircraft and access of restoration facilities between the museums that will work to the benefit of both. 2021 saw a MiG-21 fighter and Yakovlev Yak-40 transport from the Brno collection put on display at Kunovice while an early production L-410 Turbolet from Kunovice was sent to Brno.
Owing to the museum’s primary mission of preserving local aviation history, there are some truly rare and unique aircraft in the collection that you won’t be able to see elsewhere.
In 2017, the museum unveiled to the public a one of a kind new exhibit in the form of the Let/Zlín Z-37 TM. The aircraft was a one off modification of the Z-37 T agricultural aircraft to test the type’s suitability for military close support missions in the mid 1980s.
The tests showed that the aircraft was quite unsuitable for the job and the project was abandoned. The aircraft eventually found its way to Hungary and languished in open storage for several years there before it was located by museum staff and arrangements were made to bring it to Kunovice.
The aircraft arrived at Kunovice in autumn of 2016 and was restored in the off season. Restoration was completed through early 2017 and the aircraft was put on display in June of 2017.
During the break between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the museum marked the 50th anniversary year of the locally produced Let L-410 Turbolet commuter aircraft by restoring the XL-410 prototype in their collection to the paint scheme it wore when it made the first flight of the type in 1969.
Nicknamed “Matylda”, the first prototype of what would go on to become easily one of the most successful Czech aircraft types ever produced was returned to a place of prominence in the museum’s collection after the restoration.
Protecting the Past and Planning the Future
As Kunovice is an outdoor museum, the aircraft all show greater or lesser degrees of wear from exposure to the elements. However, for the past few years, the museum has been drawing up plans and putting the bureaucratic pieces in place to build a large permanent structure to house several of their aircraft indoors and out of the elements.
For the uniqueness and rarity of some of their aircraft, this museum really does deserve all the support they can get in trying to safeguard their collection from the elements.
Visiting the Museum
The Museum can be reached by car or train. There is some parking available and the nearest train stop (Kunovice Zastávaka) is less than a ten minute walk from the museum. It should be noted that this particular train stop is little more than a siding on the rail line so you should watch for the museum and listen carefully to the stop announcements.
Around the corner from the museum there is a small restaurant on the airport property called OK-BAR. It’s got a friendly and relaxed atmosphere and an outdoor terrace as well as tables inside.
It is near the restaurant that you will find public washrooms. Once you have bought your ticket to enter the museum, you can move freely between the museum and the area of OK-BAR.
On the way from the museum to OK-BAR, you will walk past a parking area for aircraft of the local flying club. The aircraft can range from small two seat trainers to sailplanes all the way up to larger aircraft taking skydivers up for a jump. It’s certainly worth stopping for a moment to see what’s parked there.
The museum’s Facebook page is the best place to keep abreast of their latest activities. While it is all in Czech, you should have no problem finding someone on the page who speaks English or another language who would be willing to help you communicate with the museum if you wish to do so.
The museum’s website is only in Czech at the moment; however, it does respond reasonably well to internet translator functions. The site contains information about opening hours and entrance fees.