FAIRBORN — The National Museum of the United States Air Force has reopened its doors to the public as of July 1.
The museum has been closed since March 15 as the coronavirus pandemic has swept the nation.
Bright and early Wednesday morning, the museum opened the doors of its recently completed entrance near the “Early Years” exhibit. Museum staff expected roughly 1,000 visitors for their first day back, all of whom are required to wear masks upon entry.
For volunteers such as Curtis Greca, returning to the museum is a breath of fresh air. Greca served in the US Air Force on the crew of a C141 B Starlifter. By his estimation, he’s logged over 5,000 hours on the aircraft, and he served during Operation Desert Storm.
“We’ve been champing at the bit to get back in here,” he said. “I’ve missed seeing these old friends.”
In the three and a half months of closure, the museum has made some improvements to its infrastructure and made some changes to help preserve public safety. Water fountains and certain walk-through exhibits are closed (except for the Space Shuttle exhibit), and areas have been sectioned off to improve the flow of foot traffic.
“The good news is that with 900,000 square feet of exhibit space, there’s plenty of room for social distancing,” said Museum Director David Tillotson.
“I’m excited that we’re able to get the public back in. One of the things that really energizes the staff is the opportunity to interact with the public,” the director said.
June, July and August are peak months for museum visitors. Normally, the museum welcomes just under 100,000 people a month.
“In the month of July we normally see 110,000 to 120,000 people,” Tillotson said. “I’m very pragmatic, I think we’ll see much less than that.”
Though the museum has taken a financial hit, the director maintains a positive outlook on the museum’s future, particularly as they look towards curating upcoming attractions.
“Both the Air Force Museum and the National Aviation Hall of Fame have been doing a very good job of managing their cash flow during this time period, but it has been difficult for them,” he said. “The government staff has actually been working in the background during most of this time, working on new exhibits, new building modifications and so forth.”
The National Museum of the United States Air Force requires all guests to wear masks or face coverings during their visit. If a visitor does not have a mask, one will be provided free of charge.