Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Aero Experience Mid-West Tour 2016: Kansas Aviation Museum

By Mark Nankivil
We were busiest in Wichita, and the day started at the Kansas Aviation Museum located on the perimeter of McConnell Air Force Base to the southeast of downtown Wichita.  When the building was built in the early '30s, it was the first airport terminal in Wichita at what was then Wichita Municipal Airport.  It was then put to use by the military during World War II, along with Stearman's Kaydet and Boeing's B-29 Superfortress production facilities.  Post war, the U.S. Air Force took over the building, along with the airport, and in 1953 initially named it Wichita Air Force Base.  Less than a year later, it was renamed McConnell Air Force Base in memory of two Wichita brothers who were Air Force pilots, one dying in a private plane crash and the other on a bombing raid in the South Pacific in WWII.

The building has some wonderful architectural details and artwork that really add to the flavor of an aviation museum.  The building interior is filled with aviation artifacts, aircraft and displays and has a number of dedicated rooms used for meeting spaces and education.  Wichita's rich aviation history is well served by the museum, and a peek into their archives showed the depth of research material available to those writing on the history of companies like Travel Air, Stearman, Cessna, Beech, Boeing and newer companies such as Spirit Aerosystems.  Outside of the building, there are a number of aircraft on display, including the Boeing B-47, of which just over 2,000 were made in Wichita.  The one and only Beech Model 73 Jet Mentor is on display, showing its obvious relationship to the T-34 Mentor.  There is a rare Beech Starship on display as well.

The Aero Experience wishes to thank Gerry Sibley for allowing us to access the Museum as normal hours this time of the year are on the weekend.  A number of Docents were on hand during our visit to do restoration work on aircraft and displays, and one in particular was doing intricate detail painting in the main terminal to duplicate the way the building was decorated back in its heyday.  The archives team was also on hand, and were a delight to talk to about the archived materials and artifacts in their care.  All in all, a great group of people who add life and vigor to an amazing Museum.  

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