National Airline History Museum
Visitors to the National Airline History Museum in Hanger 9 of the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport can enjoy a tour that includes exhibits, aviation artifacts, and several historic aircraft. The museum began with the acquisition and restoration of a Lockheed Constellation in the 1980s. Today, the museum holds a collection of historic aircraft and exhibits. The museum hosts community functions and offers educational programs. One of the most popular additions to the museum is a pair of flight simulators, where visitors can try their hand at flying various historic aircrafts.
Backstory and Context
The National Airline History Museum dates back to 1986, when Larry Brown and Dick McMahon established a non-profit group called Save-a-Connie. The organization’s original purpose was to acquire and restore a 1940s Lockheed Super G Constellation, commonly known as the “Connie.” The group managed to obtain a retired Connie in Mesa, Arizona. Volunteers managed to repair the plane enough to make it operational, and successfully flew it to Kansas City. The plane was brought to Hanger 9 at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. In 1989 the Save-a-Connie Museum opened in the hanger, displaying the Connie as well as items and documents relating to the airline industry.
Save-a-Connie’s membership and collection grew over the years. Many of the original volunteers and paying members were former employees at TWA (Transcontinental Western Airlines) which for many years had its headquarters in Kansas City. It also acquired more aircrafts, such as a Martin 404 and a Douglas DC-3. Originally the museum was focused on the history of propeller-driven aircraft, but later expanded to include jets as well. In 2000 Save-a-Connie was renamed the Airline History Museum to reflect its expansion beyond the original Constellation plane. During the late 2000s and early 2010s the museum was plagued by a series of issues involving financial mismanagement. In 2007 a fundraising gala featuring John Travolta became controversial after it was revealed that over 85% of the proceeds went to paying for the event. In 2011 former museum director Paul Sloan was convicted of embezzling $51,000 from the institution over the past several years. That same year the museum underwent reforms and a rebranding effort. It was renamed the National Airline History Museum and unveiled a new website, logo, and exhibits.
The National Airline History Museum currently possesses eight aircraft. In addition to the original Super G Constellation, the museum has a Boeing 727, a Douglas DC-3, a Douglas DC-8-62, a KC Eaglet, a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, a Martin 404, and a Northrop Delta 1D. Projects are underway to restore several of the planes to their original conditions and make them operational again. One unique item on display at the museum is the Moonliner II, a 38 foot model rocket. It is a replica of a 76 foot rocket, the Moonliner, which was displayed in Tomorrowland at Disneyland from 1955-1962 as part of a partnership with TWA. The Moonliner II was built and placed on the TWA building in Kansas City, where it stood until 1962. Besides aircraft, the museum features exhibits and artifacts on the airline industry, primarily TWA. It also has two flight simulators, in which visitors can experience flying various models of airplanes.
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