Thursday, November 02, 2017

The Bost Hangar: Beechcraft Museum completes expansion, renames exhibit hangar

Jody Curtis, director of marketing for the Beechcraft Heritage Museum, stands in the newly expanded $1 million Bost Hangar with a portrait of its namesake, Harold Bost. His donation made the expansion possible.

For the last 13 years, the newest exhibit hangar of the Beechcraft Heritage Museum has been known by the name of the aircraft it houses; but after a $1 million expansion was completed last month, the Bonanza/Baron hangar has a new name: the Bost Hangar.

Named in honor of emeritus board member Harold Bost, a lifetime member of the museum, the now 36,000-square-foot Bost Hangar was dedicated during the 43rd annual Beach Party Fly-in held in mid-October.

“This was his project from day one,” said Director of Marketing Jody Curtis.

Bost was the founding member of the hangar now named after him.

“Harold’s dream is for it to go all the way to 90,000 square feet,” Curtis said.

The dream started with the original 9,000-square-foot addition to the main museum structure, completed in 2004.

Separated by an outdoor walkway from the main structure, the Bonanza/Baron Hangar saw its phase II expansion, which doubled the hangar’s display space to 18,000 square feet, completed in 2006.

A decade later, in August 2016, the museum announced that it was out of room for new exhibits and launched a fundraising effort to begin Phase III, an 18,000-square-foot expansion which would again double the size of the hangar.

Bost responded to the fundraising call, offering to match the museum’s effort dollar-for-dollar up to $1 million.

The $1 million alone would have covered the construction costs, but for sustainability the museum routinely raises twice the amount needed for a project to keep up with maintenance costs on its enlarged space and additional aircraft.

The match was met, with every dollar coming from private donations.

“Every square inch of this museum has been pay-as-you-go,” Curtis said. “There has not been borrowed money for any part of it.”

According to Curtis, the museum has consistently relied on its membership base of approximately 900 people worldwide to build its endowment and fund expansion projects.

In a video recording of the Oct. 14 dedication that can be viewed on the museum’s Facebook page, Bost told that night’s 300 guests, “We’ve created a habit of doubling every time that we add on, so next time I guess we’re going to have to build 36,000.”

Whenever “next time” comes, Curtis said, the museum will be ready. “Everything is built to continue to expand in future years,” Curtis said.

Hangar Displays

The Bost Hangar is one of the museum’s three exhibit hangars, including the original Walter H. Beech Hangar and the Alton “Chuck” Cianchette Hangar.

The museum houses more than 35 aircraft, including the very first Staggerwing ever manufactured. “This is truly Smithsonian quality,” Curtis said of the 1932 aircraft, serial number one.

There’s also a twin turboprop Starship, one of only five left in the world. A total of 53 were built in the 1980s, but by the end of the decade most models were decommissioned and destroyed by Raytheon – then the parent company of Beechcraft.  Textron Aviation acquired the brand in 2014.

The Starship in the museum is a static display, but one of the four still flying was among the 120 aircraft that visited the museum this year, and two of them – from Colorado and Texas – are scheduled to attend next year’s event for the 30th anniversary of the aircraft in 2018.

And now, thanks to Bost, there’s a new arrival.

Baylescraft Lightning

Unveiled at the October dedication ceremony, the museum now has an experimental Baylescraft Lightning. The plane is named after Dick Bayles, who managed the first such modification of a Baron twin, and is called the “Lightning” in honor of Beechcraft prototypes of that name.

“I think there are only two of these in the world,” Curtis said. “It was pretty fun watching it taxi in here that night.”

But the plane’s introduction to the museum had to wait for the expansion project to be complete.

“Harold bought this airplane almost two years ago and we’ve been storing it in hiding for him to have for this dedication,” Curtis said.

A ‘Vault’ of History

The Beechcraft Heritage Museum also features memorabilia and artifacts that trace the history of the Beechcraft family of airplanes to the company’s founding in 1932. With the inclusion of planes from the 1920s manufacturing precursor to Beechcraft, Travel Air, it actually traces the lineage even farther.

“We have a vault of information for pilots or people who want to restore their airplanes,” Curtis said, pointing out file cabinets full of original drawings and documents from the 30s, 40s and 50s. “They come here to do their research.”

And one of the plans for the newly expanded Bost hangar is to include a proper technical library and archive in the space for such research.

It was the museum’s commitment to promoting and preserving Beechcraft history that, in 2007, drove its name change from the Staggerwing Museum Foundation.

When the museum was founded by Staggerwing Club enthusiasts in 1973, it was devoted just to the biplanes with a negative wing stagger. Today, the museum represents all things Beechcraft.

It’s a change that is evident during the annual fly-in as well.

“Now we are lucky to maybe get a dozen Staggerwings,” Curtis said. “There’s just not that many flying.”

Of the 120 aircraft that flew in this year, she said, most were Bonanza and Baron models.

In total, this year’s event drew 500 guests from around the world, including one gentleman from Amsterdam who made his first trip to America to visit the museum.

“We have people come from all over the world come to Tullahoma, Tennessee, to share in these great aircraft,” Curtis said. “Tullahoma should be really proud of what we have here.”

Museum Hours

The privately funded museum on Old Shelbyville Highway is now open year-round, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Adult admission to the museum is $10. Discounts are available for students, seniors and the military.

Original article can be found here:

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