A trip to the Spanish Airforce Museum with a former Spanish Ambassador

Last month I took a research trip to Spain for the sequel to Beyond Ultra, and a potential sequel after that, forming what I’m calling (tentatively) the Valhalla Trilogy.

Our host in Madrid was Antonio de Oyarzabal, the Spanish Ambassador to the United States from 1996-2000, and his charming wife Beatrice.

Ambassador Oyarzabal began his diplomatic career in the early 1960’s and one of his first assignments was to help write a constitution for Spanish Guinea, which was about to become the newly independent nation of Equatorial Guinea. Both Guineas, the colony and the country, figure prominently in my Trilogy. Beatrice was born in America and is the former Beatrice Lodge, daughter of Ambassador John Lodge and niece of Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.

What a privilege to get to see a country through their eyes and hear their experiences!

Knowing my love of aviation, and how it features in the books, Antonio personally escorted us to the Spanish Air Force museum … in his 1983 Rolls Royce!

The Air Force museum was interesting since it included many displays of aircraft from the 1930’s and 1940’s, when Spain was dependent first on Nazi Germany for its military aircraft. After World War II, Spain produced license-built copies of German aircraft models that the Spanish Air Force used well into the 1970’s. After World War II, Spain could not initially obtain foreign-built aircraft since the Franco regime was ostracized by the international community for its support of Germany during the war. The Germans had assisted Franco and his Nationalist regime during the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939 and had sent soldiers and airman, known as the Condor Legion, to assist Franco.

Among the most famous of the museum exhibits are the license-built versions of the Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter and the Junkers JU-52 transport plane.

However, the most interesting exhibit was the DeHaviland Dragon Rapide aircraft that the Nationalists chartered in Britain and used to take Franco from his Spanish Army post in the Canary Islands to Morocco and then Spain in July 1936 so he could lead the Nationalist revolt.

Here, Antonio and I are standing next to the Rapide.

Thank you, Ambassador, for taking the time to show us around!

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