The relocation of the Commemorative Air Force’s national headquarters under the auspisises of the CAF’s “Airbase” reorganization plan that was announced earlier this year, recently narrowed down to eight locations, has the High Sky Wing of Midland, Texas preparing for the departure of the national organization. While undoubtably the loss of the national headquarters to a higher-profile metropolitan area stings the pride of Midlanders a bit, the move represents a tremendous opportunity for the the wing, who will be taking over the facilities that were under the control of the CAF and will be in charge of what will become “Airbase West Texas.”
In essence the High Sky Wing will inherit the “national grade” facilities already existent at the site, and will continue the the operation of the current CAF campus, including the CAF American Airpower Heritage Museum, the George H.W. and Barbara Bush Commemorative Center, as well as hosting the hugely popular annual CAF AIRSHO. The departure of the national organization will allow the Sky High Wing, which presently has about 250 members, to get out of the national organization’s exceptionally large shadow.
Plans are being discussed for the expansion of the Airpower museum, constructing a new entrance to the main CAF Hangar and to reconfigure one half of the hangar into additional Museum space, with initial emphasis being the creation of an expanded “Midland Army Airfield” exhibit, to include an AT-11 bombardier trainer presently under restoration as well as an authentically restored and flying AT-11. In a report, the wing’s committee for planning and implementing the transition observed: “Right now the regular museum visitor never sees our operation or interacts with our “crew” who are out there doing the real work of the CAF.” The group plans to move its maintenance and flying operations to the main CAF hangar. There, in conjunction with the CAF Museum’s expanded new exhibits, the front and center display of the wing’s seven operational airplanes (and six member-owned airplanes) will be a great advertisement for membership in the wing.
In addition to the wing’s integration with the museum, another tremendous opportunity for the wing is that they are now the hosts of the annual AIRSHO, and will be keeping a larger share of the proceeds. Other events that are critical for the local tourist economy like Hops & Props and Mustang Stampede will continue to be held.
Longer-term plans include further expansion of the Museum’s new exhibits into the main hangar, and reconfiguring the current headquarters space to allow the wing to lease portions of it out to generate additional revenue. There’s also talk of re-purposing the existing museum gallery, moving the displays to other areas of the museum and making the area into a convention center.
While negotiations between the national organization and the High Sky Wing are ongoing, it would appear that the High Sky Wing is both capable and eager to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the departure of the CAF headquarters.