STRATFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – “This is a Vietnam veteran, shot down twice,” explains Mark Corvino, as we stroll through incredible treasures, saved from disrepair.

Welcome to the new Connecticut Air & Space Center, a work in progress that took ten years to come together.

“This is the mighty Corsair that sat on the pole at Bridgeport Airport then Sikorsky for 38 years,” says Corvino, president of the center.

The behemoth, a style used in World War 2 and the Korean War.

In addition to vintage aircraft, the non-profit museum displays memorabilia and artifacts, mostly connected to the industry in Stratford….a history that Corvino believes is largely hidden.

“Almost everyone who comes here says, ‘My grandmother, my grandfather, my mom, my dad, my uncle worked here and no one knows about it,'” says Corvino. “And that’s the sad part.”

But, this space is aiming to change that, showcasing the area where aircraft, engines and parts were manufactured, home to Sikorsky Airport.

It’s how many people made a living.

“Stratford has unbelievable history aviation history,” says Corvino.

The museum also aims to increase awareness of the role women played in the industry. In fact, a display case holds a picture of Corvino’s mother who was a riveter during World War II.

“They were a major, major part. It’s really what kept us in the war, the women,” explains Corvino. “Probably 50% of the workforce were women.”

The museum also tells the story of aviation pioneer Gustav Whitehead who reportedly took flight in Connecticut in 1901.

“The controversy is, did he fly before the Wright brothers?” explains Corvino.

A $1 million grant will expand the museum into a new hangar, and planes are already being restored to fill it.

The museum will be a destination for field trips, kids programs and more…once the pandemic eases up.

“That’s what we’re trying to do – catch the interest of young people,” says Corvino, proud of the growing endeavor.

A journey into the past with soaring possibilities.