Aviation collection: from plane seats to pilot’s jacket

Patrick Burnham is an avid collector of aviation-related items.

By Jef Rietsma

Collector? Patrick Burnham.

Collection? Aviation-related materials.

How did your collection begin? I’ve been interested in aviation my whole life. From the time I was old enough to drive, I’d go up to the Kalamazoo Airport and watch North Central’s [Convair] 580s come in. My collection started unintentionally, but it was at a thrift store up in Holland where I found a captain’s uniform jacket.

What is your best source for acquiring/trading/selling? I don’t really sell but my main interest is buying. I’ve acquired pilot uniform jackets mainly from just looking at thrift stores, and, of course, I’m always on the lookout for other aviation-related items. Pilot wings (pins) are very expensive and I look on eBay just to see what’s out there and what various items cost.

Your most unusual item? I have a set of airline seats from a McDonnell-Douglas DC-9. I was up in Oscoda at an air museum, where Kalitta Air (cargo) has a contract with a heavy-maintenance (Air Force) base. They have tons of planes and they’re always pulling out seats to convert into cargo planes. The seats are donated to the museum, which they turn around and sell to help support their operations. The seats were originally in the plane of a Florida-based regional airline.

What item or items are missing from your collection? I’d love to have a full Delta Airlines uniform. I work for Delta part-time in customer service, and I work at the counter and at the gate up at AZO, so I would really like to get my hands on a full pilot’s uniform.

What joy do you get from collecting aviation?
I’ll pick up anything that is aviation related. I just love the history of aviation and everything about flying.

Describe your most memorable acquisition. I’m a retired police officer and after that I went to work for the sheriff’s department. My assignment for three to four years was at the airport. I was there when they closed the old terminal in 2011 and opened the new one. I had occasion one day to be inside the old terminal before they tore it down and there were things scattered all over the counters, on the floor, just everywhere. They said I could take whatever I wanted because it was all going to get thrown away, so I picked up a lot of really unique stuff. I especially liked coming across the old arrivals and departures slides, where the name of the city is listed and used to be displayed at the gate before that all went digital.

What’s the most you ever paid for an item? I spent $85 on a captain’s hat. I’ve also driven to quite a few places around the state to get mannequins so I can display the pilot jackets and shirts. I pick up mannequins at places going out of business.

Are you on the Web? There’s a Facebook page called “Aviation Man Cave” and guys are always posting their stuff on there. I’m in contact with a lot of people and I enjoy the camaraderie. I’ve acquired a few things as a result of that Facebook page.

Footnotes: A Pickerel Lake resident, the 66-year-old Burnham went into the Air Force from high school and served for 12 years. He served 10 of the 12 years as a military police officer. He also has an impressive collection of Air Force memorabilia. Burnham’s collection now includes full uniforms with accessories from American Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Jet Blue.

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