The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio will be relocating it’s collection of one-of-a-kind experimental aircraft to a new $46 million gallery in 2015, giving its 1.2 million yearly visitors a chance to see the historic and futuristic aircraft that are presently stored in a closed-off hangar, inaccessible to the public.
Museum officials shut down public tours of the off-site Presidential and Research and Development hangar May 1 because of the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration which has upset many of the museums visitors. Prior to the closure, guests who wanted to tour the hangar were required to show ID and board a shuttle bus which would take them to “Area B” located behind the gates of the base. Museum officials state that eliminating the shuttle bus operation and minimizing utility costs are projected to save about $120,000 a year.
The museum’s research, experimental and development aircraft collection will be added to a new hangar that is already planned to house the Presidential, Global Reach and Space Galleries which will showcase former Air Force One planes, cargo jets and NASA equipment.
The presidential planes on exhibit will include the Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000 that carried President John F. Kennedy’s body back to Washington after his assassination in Dallas in 1963 and was the craft in which President Lyndon Johnson was also sworn in to the Office of the Presidency. Other presidential planes on display will include planes used by Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
The over two dozen experimental planes scheduled for display include the gargantuan, six-engined, Mach 3+, delta winged North American XB-70 Valkyrie, the reverse-winged Grumman X-29 and another North American product, the hypersonic X-15 rocket plane which to this day holds the world record for the fastest speed achieved by a manned aircraft, set in 1967 when it reached 4,520 miles per hour with test pilot William J. “Pete” Knight at the controls. “Each one of these artifacts, those exhibits, are engineering marvels,” said Richard V. Reynolds, chairman of the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. Board of Managers and a retired Air Force lieutenant general.
Construction of the new hangar is scheduled to begin in 2014 with the building being opened to the public in the summer of 2015. The museum’s foundation has raised more than $38 million for the privately funded expansion through gift, ticket and food sales at the museum, foundation memberships, and individual and corporate donations. The Air Force pays the costs to operate the museum, however because of the sequestration that led to $374,000 in cuts, the foundation is contributing an additional $42,000 to pay utility expenses one day a week through the summer.