The newest addition to the expanding Sun ‘n Fun campus — the Emil Buehler Restoration Skills Center — was dedicated at this year’s fly-in.
The 8,000-square-foot facility, located next to the Florida Air Museum, will house Sun ‘n Fun’s year-round aircraft restoration activities.
It was made possible by a $300,000 grant from the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust.
“Emil would be thrilled with this building,” said George Weaver, a trustee of the Buehler Trust. “He was a real hands-on guy.”
A German immigrant, Buehler was a pioneer in aeronautics. He was actively involved in aviation in New Jersey in the 1920s and 1930s, including owning part of the airport in Teterboro. “He was a Howard Hughes-type person without the movie studio,” Weaver said. His involvement in aviation eventually included funding a wind tunnel for testing space vehicles that became known as the Emil Buehler Mach 3 wind tunnel.
Buehler died in 1983. The trust was created in 1985. Over the years, the trust has donated more than $23 million towards projects, including those at EAA Oshkosh, the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and the restoration of a Grumman Goose G-21, which now sits in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Museum at Dulles International Airport. “We do hardware — buildings, simulators and aircraft,” Weaver said. “We look forward to doing a lot more.”
The new restoration center at Sun ‘n Fun will be used not only to restore and maintain aircraft, but also to teach the arts of restoration, welding, composites and more to the next generation.
“This will be a home for passing on those skills,” said John Burton, Sun ‘n Fun president. “It will be the focal point for all restoration activities at Sun ‘n Fun. For more than two decades volunteers have accomplished wonders when it comes to aircraft restoration and restoration projects while working in less than ideal conditions.”
Projects completed over the years include a 1936 Aeronca LB that’s now airworthy, restoration of the Florida Air Museum’s Stits “Playmate,” construction of a 7/8-scale replica of a 1941 Porterfield “Collegiate” and refurbishment of a Lockheed XFV-1 “Vertical Riser,” an experimental vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft that has served for many years as a landmark on the Sun ‘n Fun campus. Restoration of the Vertical Riser, which now occupies center stage in the Buehler Center, continues.