If you want to pass the time between flights, The Aviation Museum of Kentucky could be the answer.
The museum, at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, has 20,000 square feet of indoor exhibition space plus several aircraft outdoors on exhibit and has hosted guests from all 50 states and more than 800 countries. The museum also offers traveling exhibits.
It began, museum President Jerry Vandermeer said, from a roundtable discussion involving four men interested in aviation, including Winn Turney, the commissioner of aviation for the commonwealth.
“I think most of the men donated things to the museum they wanted to get out of their house,” Vandermeer said with a laugh.
The museum officially opened in 1995 in conjunction with the Doolittle Raid convention. The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Toyko raid, was the first air raid by the United States on Tokyo. The dangerous maneuver was successful and provided a huge morale boost to the United States. Vandermeer said 32 of the 80 involved in the attack survived; those remaining during the year the museum opened chose to have their reunion there.
One of the main goals of the museum is to education young people about a possible career in aviation as well as help the understand the science and history behind aviation and the influence Kentucky has had on the field.
To that end, the museum offers summer camps for children, which teach not only the history of aviation but the principles of flight, aircraft and engine design and technology of flight. Participants get the chance to practice on a flight simulator and check out behind-the-scenes airport operations.
Aimed at those 10 to 15, the camp hosts hundreds of children per year and gives them the chance to learn from professional educators and to fly with licensed instructors. The museum also has a scholarship program, so nearly a third of its campers attend free,
Vandermeer said the museum averages 6,000 to 7,000 a year, which includes school tours and other events.
“This year we hosted the Susan G. Komen event for breast cancer research,” he said. “We also have hosted the U.S. Air Force Academy farewell dinner, memorial services for World War II veterans, weddings, corporate Christmas parties,” he said.
In its 18th year, the museum also is home to the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame, which honors aviation achievers in the state.
So far, 45 Kentucky natives have been honored, from executive and designers to instructors and pilots and including Matthew Sellers of Carter County, who invented retractable landing gear.
New to the museum is a viewing area where visitors can see more areas of the airport and more aircraft.
Vandermeer said the museum brings in visiting aircraft, too. During July, the museum will have a B-25 and a B-17 from the World War II area.
LEE WARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2661.