On April 8, 1920 a Laird Swallow, the first commercially produced airplane in the United States, made its first flight over Wichita, Kansas. Since then Kansas has developed into the Air Capital of the World boasting industry leaders like Stearman, Boeing-Wichita, Cessna Aircraft, Beechcraft, Bombardier Aerospace/Learjet and Spirit AeroSystems. Over the years, Kansas has annually produced approximately 60% of the western world’s general aviation aircraft. Today the Kansas Aviation Museum showcases the Past, Present, and Future of that history.
Lon Smith, Executive Director of the Kansas Aviation Museum originally wrote the following article on October 10, 2011.
Over the past 20 years, Kansas Aviation Museum staff, board members and volunteers have worked tirelessly to ensure the preservation of Kansas and Wichita aviation heritage. They’ve spent huge amounts of time, money and energy to restore the historic Wichita Air Terminal, build and rebuild historic aircraft, and care for artifacts of every type related to our aviation heritage. During that time the institution has experienced ups and downs, but overall has made some great advances.
The organization is guided by a nine-phase master plan developed in conjunction with local Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture. Four of these phased upgrades are complete, and a fifth is near completion. Those completed include the exterior restoration of the historic terminal, acquisition of about 15 acres to the north of the current facility, opening of the new aircraft restoration center, and initial site development. Current work is focused on a state-of-the-art facility that will house the most sensitive archival materials in the museum’s collection.
In total, the Kansas Aviation Museum has spent about $5 million on upgrades and renovations to the property.
We are now working on the fifth phase of our master plan – upgrades to the mechanical systems within the historic terminal.
Although it may be hard to believe, our aviation museum in the Air Capital of the World has no heat and air conditioning in about 70 percent of the building and no elevator. However, thanks to the city of Wichita, we now have a complete engineering study and all documents necessary to do this work.
The Kansas Aviation Museum is engaged in a campaign to raise the $1.4 million this project requires, with $100,000 secured to date. This is crucial to the future of our aviation museum and our community.
When individuals journey from around the world, they visit our local museums. This is particularly true with regard to the Kansas Aviation Museum when aviation enthusiasts come to town to buy or service planes, receive flight training, learn more about our aviation heritage and the like.
We want our aviation museum to be an exceptional reflection of our community. Without heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, and with no elevator, it does not reflect the positive image that would command respect. This needs to change.
For those who already support the museum: Thank you, and we hope that support will continue.
To all those who have found reasons in the past not to support this institution: We call upon you to recognize the importance of our current initiative.
After 20 years of perseverance, the Kansas Aviation Museum has proved that it is a part of the fabric of our community. It is in the right location and is poised to become the world-class museum that Wichita deserves.
I call upon all citizens of the Wichita area to visit and support your aviation museum in the Air Capital of the World.