The National Warplane Museum is returning to Geneseo, New York. In a recent press conference the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group announced that it had reacquired the name of the National Warplane Museum. “Today is a very special day for us. It is a great milestone for the museum and a fitting way to kick off Memorial Day weekend,” said Austin Wadsworth, president of 1941 HAG, who will retain his title for the National Warplane Museum.
The non-profit National Warplane Museum was founded in 1994, but its roots go back a decade earlier to the grass airstrip at Wadsworth’s farm. Wadsworth had been parking vintage airplanes on the farm starting in the mid-80s. Eventually, a small gathering of warbirds at Geneseo Airport became the “Wings of Eagles Airshow,” attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world.
The airshow was staged to great success in Genesee County in the mid-1990s, but in the wake of a split among its directors over internal administration issues, the group split with the National Warplane Museum name going with the faction who left Geneseo and moved to Big Flats, New York. Members that remained in Geneseo and nearby communities forged ahead by forming the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group, which continued to stage an annual “Geneseo Airshow” on the longest active grass runway in the United States, leading to its moniker “The Greatest Show on Turf.”
The National Warplane Museum, meanwhile, struggled in its new location and in 2010, the museum reinvented itself as the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center, moved to a smaller facility and changed its focus to concentrate less on history and more on science, technology, engineering and math education, though the Discovery Center continues to maintain a collection of vintage aircraft.
“Operating under the national status elevates the awareness of our mission to refurbish, preserve and fly vintage military aircraft, as well as educate the public on the history of these artifacts and increase tourism, drawing visitors to our region,” Wadsworth said. Wadsworth also said the museum plans renovations to increase exhibition space, expand its “America at Home” exhibition and other projects that “focus on the treasure we have here today.” The 1941 Historical Aircraft Group presently has 1,000 members and is Western New York’s only hands-on warplane museum that operates with an active runway and has 15 vintage warbirds in its collection.