The world’s largest military aviation museum is about to get bigger.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is set to expand its legacy with a new 224,000 square foot building to be constructed by Turner Construction Co. of Washington, D.C.
The contract for the museum’s newest building, which will be similar in size and shape to its three existing hangars, was awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, for the amount of $35.426 million, and is being privately financed by the Air Force Museum Foundation, a non-profit organization chartered to assist in the development and expansion of the museum’s facilities.
Current plans call for construction to begin in late spring 2014 and be completed in the summer of 2015. The museum will then begin populating the building that fall. A public opening is anticipated in late 2015.
According to Museum Director Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jack Hudson, the fourth building will provide more educational opportunities, increase visitor access to the presidential and research and development aircraft and improve visitor experience with space exhibits and large aircraft.
“We’re extremely excited about the fourth building because this new facility will help us to further tell the Air Force story with much needed exhibit space and also provide dedicated educational areas for programs based in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM),” said Hudson. “There will be opportunities for visitors of all ages, but a special emphasis will be placed on programs that inspire and motivate our youth toward an Air Force or STEM career.”
The new climate-controlled building, with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) 3.0 Silver certification, will house four major elements of the Air Force story.
The Presidential Aircraft Gallery will allow the museum to relocate and expand one of its most popular galleries, currently located on a controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and accessible by bus to a small percentage of museum visitors. The fourth building will provide all visitors the opportunity to view this historic collection of presidential aircraft, and walk through four of them, including aircraft used by Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower as well as the Boeing VC-137C used by President Kennedy, also known as SAM (Special Air Mission) 26000 which carried his body back to Washington, D.C. from Dallas after his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, and served as the location where President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the new president.
The Research and Development Gallery will also to be relocated from the base and offer visitors the opportunity to view the world’s only remaining XB-70 and other aerospace vehicles. The exotic XB-70 could fly three times the speed of sound and was used as a research aircraft for the advanced study of aerodynamics, propulsion and other subjects. Research and development aerospace vehicles represent advances in technological problem solving and will increase the museum’s opportunities to teach STEM themes and principles.
The new Space Gallery will showcase the Space Shuttle exhibit featuring NASA’s first Crew Compartment Trainer (CCT-1), a high-fidelity representation of a space shuttle crew station used primarily for on-orbit crew training and engineering evaluations. As a major exhibit component of that gallery, visitors will be able to walk onto a full-size representation of a NASA space shuttle payload bay and look inside the CCT-1 cockpit and mid-deck areas. Conceptual plans call for the gallery to also include a Titan IV space launch vehicle, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft and many NASA artifacts such as a nose cap assembly, landing gear strut and a variety of astronaut equipment. A range of satellites and related items will showcase the Air Force’s vast reconnaissance, early warning, communications and other space-based capabilities.
Providing airlift remains a major mission of the U.S. Air Force and it forms a critical part of the Air Force’s ability to maintain global reach. The Global Reach Gallery will give the opportunity to house large aircraft currently in the museum’s collection, such as the C-141 Hanoi Taxi, which airlifted the first American POWs to freedom from Hanoi, North Vietnam in 1973. The Air Force’s airlift, aeromedical and evacuation missions will also be explained in this gallery.
According to Hudson, the museum is a valuable Air Force institution that helps maintain and improve a close connection to the public.
“It is vital for the Air Force to have the support of the American people, along with those from around the world,” Hudson said. “As the public’s window to the Air Force, more than one million visitors come to the museum each year, and another 3.5 million people visit online through the museum’s website and virtual tour to learn about the mission, history and evolving capabilities of America’s Air Force.”
The Air Force Museum Foundation recently gifted the funds necessary to begin construction of the building and will continue fundraising toward their campaign goal of $46 million, which would provide additional options and amenities for the building.
Since its inception, the Foundation has contributed more than $85.6 million for museum construction, expansion and facility upgrades.
Retired Lt. Gen. Richard V. Reynolds, chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Managers, said it’s great to finally see the building turn into a reality, but the job of fundraising will not end.
“The Air Force Museum Foundation has worked extremely hard to support the growth and expansion of the museum and will continue to do so in order to complete the Expanding the Legacy Campaign,” said Reynolds. “We’re very pleased to assist the museum in this monumental effort and look forward to the improvement in the Museum’s ability to honor the service and achievements of Airmen across the ages, and to the impact that this national asset will have on the young men and women who will serve and lead our nation in the decades to come.”
The Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. was established in 1960 as a philanthropic, non-profit organization to assist the Air Force in the development and expansion of the facilities of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, and to undertake and advance programs and activities supporting the museum. The Foundation raises funds through its membership program, the Air Force Museum Theatre, Museum Store, flight simulators and Valkyrie Café, as well as from direct donations.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the service’s national institution for preserving and presenting the Air Force story from the beginning of military flight to today’s war on terrorism. It is free to the public and features more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 17 acres of indoor exhibit space. Each year more than one million visitors from around the world come to the museum. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.
For more information, contact the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at (937) 255-3286.