More than 600 model warplanes built by a Korean War veteran are landing for the final time in a South Jersey air museum.
Daniel Inman gently lifts a bright red model biplane, meticulously assembled and detailed with Iron Cross insignia.
“This is Von Richter’s plane during the first World War, and this was always one of my favorites. I see he’s lost his propeller,” he says with a laugh.
The biplane is one of hundreds the 87-year-old Korean War veteran assembled while serving aboard a Merchant Marine ship. By the time he retired from the service, the planes covered every inch of his Marlton, New Jersey, home.
Ever since he reached his teens in South Philly, he’s enjoyed building model planes.
“They had a model shop at 22nd and Walnut streets, and that’s where I bought my first airplane for 10 cents and started building them,” recalls Inman.
Some of the models he’s built in the seven decades since then were destroyed in the mail or when Inman’s ship rolled in rough seas or when his great-grandson played a little too roughly with them. Most are in excellent shape.
But in time, Inman moved into a seniors care center in Cherry Hill, and the fate of the collection was in doubt. Dana Watson, Inman’s stepdaughter, says the family couldn’t bear to part with what she calls his “life’s work.”
Watson eventually found the Air Victory Museum in Lumberton, which agreed to adopt most of the models.
“We were astounded that there were this many aircraft to begin with,” says Ben Walczak, the musuem board director who is organizing relocation and conservation of the models. “But when we came here and saw the quality of the airplanes …? They are truly quality painted airplanes.”
About half of the collection will be on display at the museum. The hundreds of others will be given — in Inman’s name — to about 300 area children expected to visit the museum at the end of the month.
That means Daniel Inman’s squadron of a lifetime will fly again.