One nice aspect of traveling a lot for work is that you periodically find yourself near to your friends and can make a visit. A recent trip had me not too far from Wichita and needing to spread the trip over a weekend so I was able to pop up and visit Steve and Alysia. On the Saturday, Steve had a suggestion for something to do. It was the Kansas Aviation Museum. What on earth made him think that I might like that I wonder?
The museum is based at McConnell Air Force Base. It is located in the old civilian terminal building that has just undergone an extensive restoration. There is quite a collection of aircraft both within the building and outside. Given the major role that Wichita has played in aviation, it isn’t surprising that they have a lot of material to work with. Displays are in place throughout the museum along with some learning exhibits focused on a slightly younger audience so we obviously didn’t play with them.
The smaller and more delicate types are inside the terminal. This sometimes means they are a little cramped being fitted in wherever the building will allow them to go. The larger stuff is outside. You can walk out amongst them. The 727 and 737 are not too surprising –many ex FedEx 727s are now scattered around the US – but the B-47 and B-52 are nice to see. I never knew that Beech made a jet version of the Mentor. That’s because there is only one of them and it is on display although not in great shape. A Starship is always a nice find and an early Learjet is welcome too.
The old tower is open and a climb up there gives a good view across the displays as well as across to the KC-135s on the ramp of the base. The Boeing hangars are extensive although now dormant and the Spirit factory is just off behind you.
There is a lot to see. The tower would be a fun place to be when the field is busy too. The collection is possibly in need of some extra attention just to keep the basics together. Museums like this are always struggling to get volunteers in to keep everything going so I wish them the best and hopefully they will be able to sustain what they have going.