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Museum exhibits display aviation's rich history

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Maria-Jose Subiria

History continues to grow at the National Museum of Commercial Aviation, in Forest Park, not far from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The museum, at 5442 Frontage Road, Suite 110, is showcasing several exhibits, including two rotating exhibits, said Grant Wainscott, executive director and chief curator of the National Museum of Commercial Aviation. Wainscott is also the director of the Clayton County Department of Economic Development.

The exhibits include various uniforms and airline memorabilia, such as serving ware, marketing items and airplane models, from the 1950s, through the 1990s, according to Wainscott.

He said a permanent exhibit features Ozark Air Lines, which was based in St. Louis, Mo., and served a large portion of the central U.S.

"Ozark flew into Atlanta," said Wainscott. "It wasn't a huge carrier, but an important carrier."

Wainscott said that in 2006, the museum became acquainted with the Ozark Air Lines Silver Swallows Alumni. The alumni association donated more than 400 original Ozark Air Lines pieces. The exhibit showcases a small portion of the collection, Wainscott said.

"At some point, we will expand it and we will have one of the largest Ozark exhibits in the country," he added.

Some of the Ozark Air Lines items on display include a flight attendant's hat and pin from the 1950s, a 1986 captain's uniform and the 1960s uniform of a mechanic that worked on McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aircraft, he said.

Ozark Air Lines existed until 1986, when Trans World Airlines (TWA) acquired the carrier, added Wainscott.

The exhibit also displays ticket counter signage created in the 1980s, said Wainscott. These signs are taken down during the remodeling of a ticket counter and typically don't survive, "because the ticket counters get destroyed as they are being remodeled," he said.

Wainscott added that the two rotating exhibits included in the "Rotating Air Carrier Exhibits" section of the museum feature Northwest Airlines and United Airlines.

The Northwest Airlines rotating exhibit includes early pilot wings and baggage labels from the 1940s, to 2009, the year Northwest merged with Delta Air Lines, he said. In-flight serving ware from the 1980s is also displayed.

The United Airlines portion includes uniforms from the 1950s and 1960s, and airplane models, he said.

He said the museum owns a large United Airlines collection, including more than 50 uniforms from the 1940s.

In the spring of 2011, the rotating exhibits will feature pieces from Alaska Airlines and Continental Airlines, Wainscott said.

Another exhibit displayed in the museum is entitled "30,000-Foot Ceilings: Diversity in the Airline Industry. Part I: A Tribute to African Americans."

"This [exhibit] provides a brief overview of several of what we feel are pioneers in the African-American history of aviation and airline history," said Wainscott.

Wainscott said some of those individuals include August Martin, who became the first African-American captain for a U.S. scheduled airline, when he was hired by Seaboard World Airways, in 1955. Marlon Green was the first African-American pilot for a U.S. scheduled passenger airline, when he was hired by Continental Airlines in 1965, he added.

Wainscott explained that there are three parts to this exhibit and the theme will change every four months. The second part of the exhibit will feature women in aviation, he said.

Wainscott said the museum will also be putting together an exhibit featuring the Automated Radar Terminal Systems (ARTS) I, which was developed in Atlanta.

"We are actively looking for air traffic control artifacts from anybody that worked in the industry," he said, adding that it would likely take six months to a year to put the exhibit together.