Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum to Go “Open Air” for 2020

Grumman F-14B Tomcat Bu.161422 sitting outside its usual home, the magnificently restored Hangar 1 at the former NAS Wildwood now houses the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum. The museum is scheduled to re-open as an "open air" museum in the coming weeks. (image via NASWAM)

Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, located inside historic Hangar #1 at the former NAS Wildwood, now Cape May Airport, in Lower Township, New Jersey has established a marvelous collection of historic aviation artifacts over the past two decades. There are a number of important ex-military aircraft displayed there, including Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat Bu.66237 and TBM-3S Avenger Bu.86180. While the museum has had to shutter itself during the pandemic, they have just announced plans for re-opening, although in a slightly different manner. The press release below reveals the formal details…

Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat Bu.66237 on an outdoor foray at NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum. This ultra-rare, early variant of the Hellcat arrived on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida during April, 2019. Originally assigned to VF-20 at NAS San Diego, it was lost off the Pacific coast on a training sortie in January 1944. VF-20 went on to serve with distinction in the Pacific Theatre aboard the carrier USS Enterprise. Thought lost forever, a U.S. Navy submersible recovered the almost completely intact fighter from its watery grave, 3,400′ down in the Pacific Ocean, during a training exercise in October, 1970. After many years of neglect in outdoor storage, she finally received a restoration to pristine condition during the early 1990s. She is presented here in the markings of the ace, Lt.JG Arthur Ray Hawkins, who served with VF-31 aboard USS Cabot. (image via NASWAM)

Cape May Airport, Lower Township, NJ – Naval Air Station Wildwood (NASW) Aviation Museum has been eagerly awaiting the “all clear” to reopen following Governor Murphy’s March 21st Stay at Home order. In a recent interview with the museum’s online newsletter The Osprey, Director Bruce Fournier commented, “We realized the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic early, and proactively closed on March 9th.” Having a medical doctor as founder and chairman of the museum made it an easy decision. Fournier stated, “Dr. Salvatore was very supportive of our decision to close and have personnel work remotely even before it was mandated.”

Fast forward eight weeks, and now the focus has become how the museum will re-emerge from this unprecedented crisis. Mr. Fournier noted that the museum has always been innovative and creative in its marketing. “We are not on Beach Drive or the boardwalk, so we have always worked hard to let visitors know the history of NASW and where the building is actually located. Hangar #1 has hosted school graduations, proms, the Runway 5k, County Veteran’s Day Ceremony and dozens of weddings.” In fact, NASW had five weddings planned for spring 2020, all of which have been cancelled or postponed.

A panoramic view inside the historic Hangar 1 which now houses the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum. (image via NASWAM)

It was following a video conference meeting with an engaged couple that staff realized the museum could use the building’s design as part of the reopening safety protocol. This particular couple was captivated with the 38’ high hangar doors. With the doors in the open position, air flow is enhanced and visibility of sunsets on the west side is remarkable. Coincidentally, all 24 of the large hangar doors were recently restored, now operational with new steel wheels, wood siding and paint. And thus, the idea to have a 92,000 sq./ft. “open air” museum with a roof was introduced!

As NASW continues to wait for approval to open to the public, plans are being put in place to ensure the health and safety of guests and staff. These steps include, opening the large hangar doors daily to allow fresh air flow, limiting guest capacity, hand sanitize stations, Plexiglas sneeze guards in gift shop and marking out 6’ social distancing reminders on the floor. Chairman Joseph E. Salvatore, MD added, “We anticipate face masks will be required as well for all guests and staff.” Whatever the case, NASW will be ready to welcome the public.

Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum is located inside historic Hangar #1 at the Cape May Airport, New Jersey. The site was formerly Naval Air Station Wildwood, which served as a World War II dive-bomber training center. The museum is dedicated to the 42 airmen who perished while training at Naval Air Station Wildwood between 1943 and 1945. For more information, visit www.usnasw.org or call (609) 886-8787.
WD NEW_AFF

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