WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE – The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force broke ground Tuesday on a new $35.4 million building that will house aircraft from the museum’s Presidential, Research and Development (R&D) and Global Reach collection, as well as a new and expanded Space Gallery.
The 224,000 square foot building, which is scheduled to open to the public in 2016, 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.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, the museum’s fourth building will provide increased public awareness of the Air Force mission by giving visitors greater access to our legacy of aircraft, missiles, cyber expertise and other elements of Air Force heritage.
“As the Air Force’s window to the public, the museum is where the people come to learn about the history, mission and evolving capabilities of America’s Air Force and about the Airmen who are truly the foundation of everything we do,” said James. “In today’s Air Force, we not only cherish our legacy; we live it every day with integrity, service, and excellence. These core values guide our actions and make us the best Air Force in the world. I thank the Air Force Museum Foundation for their support and assistance in making this facility a reality.”
In December 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, awarded the contract for the building to Turner Construction Co. of Washington, D.C. Since then a significant amount of planning and design work has taken place to meet the museum’s requirements for the fourth building, said Turner Construction Co. Vice President and General Manager Kyle E. Rooney.
“Since the fourth building is similar in size and shape to the museum’s three existing hangars, we had some good templates to work from, but we also have some unique challenges to navigate through as well,” said Rooney. “Innovative solutions are part of what we do, so we are looking forward to getting started with the construction phase.”
Although the construction phase is set to begin, the Air Force Museum Foundation will continue fundraising toward their campaign goal of $46 million, which would provide for further options such as theatrical lighting, a west tow path, and an additional café, as well as educational requirements including science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Learning Nodes and wireless capability in the building,” said Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. Chairman Fran Duntz.
“We’re extremely pleased to assist the Air Force with financing for the fourth building, and we’re fully committed to achieving our campaign goal so that the entire potential of the fourth building can be realized,” said Duntz.
Included among the many benefits of the fourth building will be the relocation of the popular Presidential and R&D Gallery aircraft including SAM 26000 (Air Force One), which served eight presidents from President Kennedy to President Clinton, and the only remaining XB-70, from a controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to the main museum campus where they will be accessible to all visitors. In addition, the museum will be able to display some artifacts that had previously been kept in storage such as the Titan IV launch vehicle, or kept outside such as the C-141 Hanoi Taxi and the C-130E.
For Museum Director Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jack Hudson, the educational possibilities including those involving STEM is what is really exciting to envision.
“When you look at the various aircraft, the unique spacecraft and unparalleled technology that will be on display in the fourth building, then you can begin to see why it will be the perfect setting for educational programs - especially those that inspire and motivate our youth toward an Air Force or STEM career,” Hudson said. “Many museums may focus largely on the achievements of the past, but at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, we also are a catalyst for the achievements of the future.”
The National Museum of the United States Air Force 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 about one million visitors from around the world come to the museum. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.
Story by Rob Bardua, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.