Thanks to Victor Talpa, interested parties from all over the world are free to wander amidst the ghosts of aviation’s past while being buzzed by shiny, lumbering jets cruising into Riga International airport.
Young aviation engineer Victor Talpa established the Riga Aviation Museum in 1956. In its early days, Talpa’s employment and subsequent partnership with the Latvian Civil Aviation Administration aided the development of resources and programming culminating in one of the most unique aircraft collections in Europe.
On the grounds of the fledgling museum, Talpa established the Young Pilots’ Club where teen boys interested in aviation theory and mechanics could take lessons and complete basic physical training in preparation for being able to operate the aircraft of their dreams.
Eventually Talpa pled his case that the Young Pilots should have their own plane, rather than a loaner aircraft supplied by the Latvian government. This first airplane–a Mig-21US–became the founding piece of the museum’s collection, with over forty military helicopters and planes of all stripes accumulating over the years.
After the dissolution of the USSR, the museum was taken over by the Riga Airport Administration, which continued to provide the museum with the physical space necessary to all those classic planes and helicopters.
By 1997 the Riga Aviation Museum had been fully privatized, its grounds opened up to the general public. Everything is stored outdoors and may not be in tip-top condition, but most impressive is that Victor Talpa has managed to preserve one of the most treasured collections of its kind for more than half a century despite all odds.