Saturday, March 03, 2018

'Lofty' goals for Hagerstown Aviation Museum

The Hagerstown Aviation Museum might be without a permanent site, but it already has a following around the country, thanks to social media and a segment on the Travel Channel's "Mysteries at the Museum."

President John Seburn said a proposed plan for a permanent home for the museum is highlighted in the February 2018 issue of the museum's newsletter, Pegasus Flyer, which is available on its website.

The site near the former Fairchild Aircraft ramp at Hagerstown Regional Airport would have an outdoor air park with room for the current collection of large Fairchild aircraft and space for more acquisitions.

The small aircraft, indoor exhibits and more would be housed in a hangar to be constructed onsite, with a view of the airport's main runway.

All that's needed to move forward is for the lease to be signed by the county. Hagerstown Regional Airport Director Phil Ridenour said by phone Thursday that the lease is awaiting review by the county attorney's office, which is backlogged right now.

Ridenour said that as far as he knows, there is nothing to prevent the lease from being signed. He anticipates that it will happen within the next couple of weeks.

"We know there's an interest and demand," said Seburn, adding that the museum might be "the best kept secret at the airport."

It's been 22 years since the founding group of the museum first met.

Seburn was one of the initial members, along with Richard Henson, a local aviation pioneer for whom a road at Hagerstown Regional Airport is named for.

"We're carrying that passion forward with what we're doing now," Seburn said.

Other founding members included former Fairchild employees.

"We're surrounded by people who lived the history we are preserving," Seburn said.

The collection of 20 aircraft, large and small; salvaged parts; and four historic vehicles are in four locations at and near the airport. Fourteen of the aircraft were built in Washington County at Fairchild Aircraft.

Seburn said the Travel Channel segment on "Operation Haylift," which was filmed on Oct. 8, 2016, has aired multiple times. People across the U.S. call to express interest in visiting the museum.

Without a museum to visit, he said, callers can come to special events hosted throughout the year.

There are five Open Airplane Afternoon events this year for rides in a Fairchild PT-19 Trainer from World War II.

Three EAA Chapter 36 Fly-in, Drive-in Breakfasts are on the schedule with Young Eagle plane rides for ages 8 to 17, weather permitting. A Wings & Wheels Expo is on the calendar for Sept. 8.

A "very active" Facebook page generates interest among families with connections to Fairchild.

Seburn said what sets Hagerstown Aviation Museum apart from other aviation museums is that the airplanes and artifacts relate to this area. They sum up their mission with the words "Preserving Hagerstown's Aviation Heritage."

"It's very local and very personal for the families that come out," Seburn said.

While he's giving tours of the aircraft, Seburn has overheard people telling children about a grandfather who built a similar airplane or a grandmother who was a Rosie the Riveter.

"They're sharing ancestral history," Seburn said.

He wonders if his own interest in the museum doesn't come from his grandfather, who worked at Fairchild from 1941 to 1966, and his father, who is a retired history teacher.

The museum raises money through its annual membership drive of about 300 members, as well as fundraisers, private donations to specific projects, and grants from different foundations and organizations, including the Mary K. Bowman Historical and Fine Arts Fund through the Community Foundation of Washington County and the Delaplaine Foundation Inc. in Frederick, Md.

Information about the effort is available by emailing, going to Donation checks can be mailed to Hagerstown Aviation Museum, 14235 Oaks Spring Road, Hagerstown, MD 21742.

Seburn said that once there is a signed lease, organizers will regroup and start a capital campaign to raise funds for the project. Donations are welcome.

"We need a building for the public to come to. There's an urgency to get something open for the public," he said.

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