Kansas Aviation Museum
Southeast side of building
|Established||April 19, 1991|
|Location||3350 George Washington Blvd
Wichita, Kansas 67210
|Director||Daniel W. Bateman|
The Kansas Aviation Museum is a museum located in Wichita, Kansas, United States, near 31st South and George Washington Blvd. The building was the former Wichita Municipal Airport terminal from 1935 to 1951.
The Museum features many display aircraft including the B-47 Stratojet, B-52 Stratofortress, KC-135 Stratotanker, Boeing 727, Boeing 737-200, Republic F-84F Thunderstreak, Beech Starship, O-2 Skymaster, Cessna T-37, Learjet 23, Stearman Trainer, Laird Swallow, U-8 Seminole, and Lockheed T-33.
History and Architecture
The Kansas Aviation Museum is in the Terminal and Administration building of the former Municipal Airport in Wichita. The building and landing area are constructed on ground that had never been plowed and was known as the California section. The Park Board purchased 640 acres (2.6 km2) in 1928 and, with Glen Thomas as architect, started the building on July 1, 1930, but construction soon halted due to the Great Depression and lack of funds. The building sat uncompleted until 1935 with a dedication on Sunday March 31, 1935.
Wichita was the last stop before crossing the Rocky Mountains to Denver or Los Angeles in those days. The airport was greatly needed for fuel and more importantly weather updates. As told in story after story, many people who landed,ate at the restaurant and milled about were legends of industry and film. Fred Astaire, Bob Hope, Howard Hughes and countless other famous people all walked the terrazzo floors in what is now the Kansas Aviation Museum. It was tagged the "Country Club without dues". During the oppressive heat of the 30's people would come out to the airport at night, spread out a blanket, enjoy the cool breezes and watch the incoming and outgoing aircraft. The building and its grounds set about 75 feet (23 m) higher than downtown and always have a breeze blowing. The runways were paved in the late 30's as a WPA project as was finishing the building in 1935.
During World War II the airport became the fifth busiest in the United States being a convenient stop off in the middle of the US and with the endless flight testing of tens of thousands of aircraft being built in Wichita for the War effort. The additions on the east and west end of the building were added in 1942 and 1943. The upper part of the control tower was added in 1940. It was the first control tower to have slanted windows.
After WWII and into the 1950s, the U.S. Air Force decided they needed an air base in centrally located Kansas which would later become McConnell Air Force Base, a Strategic Air Command base until mid-1992 when it became an Air Combat Command base, and December 1993 when it became an Air Mobility Command base. The Air Force didn't want to spend years designing and building a new air base; they wanted one now.
The Air Force and the City of Wichita came to an agreement on price and the building was sold to the Federal Government in 1951. The city bought land, designed and began construction of the new Wichita Municipal airport on the west side of Wichita. Both civil and military flights shared the airport until October 1954 when the last commercial flight took off. The Air Force continued to use the building (called Building One) until about 1984 when they shut the doors and abandoned it marking it off as surplus. It sat empty and partially gutted for at least six years until the Kansas Aviation Museum was formed in 1990 and began work. An application for the building to be placed on the Historic Register was filed on March 6, 1990 and was later approved. The outside of the building has been restored but still needs some work. The south part of the building now looks very close to how it looked in 1935.
Much remains to be done to the inside and millions more will have to be spent to bring it back to its 1930's heyday look. The building is without a doubt one of the most beautiful buildings in Wichita and possibly in Kansas. As of June 2012 efforts to update the museum have stagnated due to lack of funding.
The architecture of the building is art deco with its strong and obvious geometric shapes and sharp angles. At the front above the triple doors to the lobby is the famous Bas-relief of the Spirit of St.Louis crossing the Atlantic with Ireland in sight. A bas-relief sculpture is raised or sunken and not a flat piece of art work which makes it stand out that much more. the building was also constructed in the Art Deco theme.
The Kansas Aviation Museum is one of only a few that allow visitors to enter its exhibition aircraft. The museum operates a once yearly "Play in a Plane Day".
- Kansas Aviation Museum Official Site
- Natiaonal Park Service: Administrative Building
- "Airports and their Stories". AOPA Pilot: 73. May 2014.
- Kansas Aviation Museum struggles to fly | Wichita Eagle.
- "Kansas Museum Opening Planes". Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Combat Air Museum Official Site
- Kansas Aviation Museum video
- Wings Over Kansas: Aviation Hall of Fame Inductees 1986–1999 List
- Administrative Building from the National Park Service site Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary
- McConnell Air Force Base
- Early McConnell history, specialcollections.wichita.edu
- A Brief History of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing and McConnell Air Force Base, mcconnell.af.mil