Sunday, January 10, 2016

Museum of Flight members preparing to reopen exhibits, preserving rare aircraft

Museum member John Sullivan works on the restoration of the BTD 1 Destroyer.

Museum member Nick Gross drives a forklift next to Ed Knitter as they work with the BTD 1 Destroyer.

John Sullivan lays on the wing of the plane.

As members of the Museum of Flight at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport work to get the hangar that houses the museum on the National Register, they also are working on preserving a unique aircraft and readying for a grand reopening.

“We are getting our facts together now,” said Peter O’Hare of the Museum of Flight. “The hangar was built by the Navy and we’re working with them to get dates and details.”
Museum organizers are also interviewing anyone who saw the hangar being built, he said.

The museum, once named the Hixson Flight Museum, shares its hangar with TigerFlight, a local organization that educates local students about aviation and often take school groups on tour of the museum’s exhibits.

The collection includes a T-28 Trojan, used during the Vietnam War, a military jeep, a military truck, a military mule, a Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, several different types of uniforms and photos and a BTD-1 Destroyer that is currently being refurbished.

“It’s the last one on the planet,” O’Hare said. “We recovered it from a field in New York and have been working on it for several years now.”

The plane is now ready to be painted. The recovery and restoration can be seen on the flight museum’s YouTube Channel.

“This was the first one on the assembly line in the 1940s when it was built and it was the last, because it was used as a model,” explained O”Hare. “We plan to put it in front of the hangar on Jan. 23 at 1:30 p.m. with some models dressed as Rosie the Riveter, since the assembly line for the plane was manned by women in the ’40s.”

The Jan. 23 event will be a sort of preview for the grand reopening of the museum on March 26, he added.

“March is Women in Aviation month, so it’s appropriate,” he said.

The event will include Huey and Cobra helicopter rides for the public, special exhibits, food and activities for children, he added.

Museum organizers are hoping the public will be not only interested in seeing the museum, but also in contributing, O’Hare said.

“If anyone has memorabilia they’d like to share or if they would like to volunteer to help out, that would be great,” he said.

O’Hare added that many times on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, aviation enthusiasts come to the airport to help restore the planes and work in the hangar.

“Come help out or watch and learn,” he said. “We offer classes on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. about hangar maintenance and ground handling. Then, hang out with us while we work on the planes.”

If anyone is interested in contributing to the museum or in coming to classes or getting tickets for the grand reopening, they may call the museum at 423-228-2359 or go to the museum’s website or Facebook page.

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