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Aviation museum's grand reopening this weekend

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

After months of moving, renovating, documenting, and labeling, the National Museum of Commercial Aviation in Forest Park is reopening its doors to the public.

This weekend, visitors will have the chance to experience the museum again, this time with more space, details and amenities for children.

The "Grand Re-Opening" of the National Museum of Commercial Aviation will take place on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m., to 4 p.m. For the price of admission, visitors will be treated to a cookout lunch, door-prize drawings, educational scavenger hunts, flight-simulator rides, and other activities for adults and children.

Museum Executive Director Grant Wainscott said the transfer of the museum's holdings from Suite 102 to Suite 110 of 5442 Frontage Road has been an arduous task, but said the move was worth the trouble.

"It's been exhausting," Wainscott said. "This space is now a functioning museum. We have just over three times the public areas. It is rewarding to see all of the stuff that we had in boxes, on display."

According to Wainscott, the museum will boast new and expanded exhibits, including: "History of Commercial Aviation by the Decade; "Southern Skies -- Historic Commuter Airlines of Florida and Georgia;" "Air Traffic Control;" the "Eastern Airlines Flight Attendant Uniform Display;" "Mechanic's Corner;" the "Young Aviator's Discovery Zone;" and the "Jim Whitlock Memorial Model Display."

The works of George Hamlin, a notable aviation consultant and photographer, will be featured in the museum's new Aviation Art Gallery, and scholars seeking information on the history of certain airlines and planes will be able to use the museum's new Research Library.

On Saturday, from 6 to 9 p.m., the museum will host a cocktail party and art gallery opening, free to museum members and open to the general public for a donation of $20 at the door.

According to Wainscott, museum memberships start at $25 for a one-year membership, which includes unlimited entrance to the museum and free entry to several members-only events throughout the year.

Museum Project Manager Andy O'Brien believes the new museum will offer children and adults a much deeper education experience. He said he looks forward to it being able to accommodate more field trips for schools and mentoring groups.

"It [the old location] was great for an enthusiast to come and look around, but it wasn't as functional as a museum would be," O'Brien said. "We have so many things that were hidden in the back, that people can see now. [We] will be able to show the things we have, better."

General admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. For more information, contact the museum at (404) 675-9266.