Warner Robins’ Museum of Aviation is contracting for the first time in its 29 year history, getting rid of a third of its collection. Among those things getting the axe are three missiles and 29 aircraft.
Personnel cuts in 2011, brought about by the recession, forced the museum to let go of eight positions; mainly specialists in plane restoration. Two years later, the museum has found itself unequipped to properly maintain all of the aircraft in its historic fleet.
Ken Emery, the museum’s director, explains: “We’ve only been growing since we started. This is really the first time we’ve had to make real decisions on downsizing the collection to preserve quality versus quantity.”
Upon closer inspection of those planes on the chopping block, their age becomes more pronounced. One of the sure-to-be missed aircraft – a B-52 Stratofortress from the Cold War – has rusted through in certain spots along the hull.
Storage is another issue, considering that most of the aircraft are stored outdoors where they’re subject to the elements. “Even if I were to invest a whole lot of money and put it in good condition, it’s still sitting outside,” says Emery.
The fate of these aircraft is inevitably in the hands of the National Museum of the Air Force. Some will be scrapped, some sent to private museums and collectors. The other half – 16 some-odd planes – are in limbo for the time being. The Museum of Aviation will pay to transport certain planes to smaller, private museums. Other, large planes would be too expensive, and scrapping is the only cost-effective option.
In the end it all boils down to the economics of operating a museum and maintaining its aircraft. One silver lining in the whole ordeal: the museum should now be able to acquire more prized aircraft, such as a B-17.