Aviation museum lands 10-acre home

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans


After seven years of planning, and getting a collection started, the National Museum of Commercial Aviation now has a permanent place to call home.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved, on Tuesday, a 50-year lease for the museum to be located on a 10-acre plot of land on Charles W. Grant Parkway, next to Interstate 75, in Forest Park. Museum officials will only have to pay $1 a year for the land, which was previously home to a Georgia Department of Transportation park-and-ride lot.

Museum Executive Director Grant Wainscott said the transportation department transferred the land to county government officials two weeks ago, after deciding it was not a good location for a parking lot to transfer people to downtown Atlanta. Wainscott is also Clayton County's director of economic development. He said the land is worth $4 million.

The museum is presently located in a small shopping center on Frontage Road in Forest Park. The new location will put it on the doorstep of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

"This is exciting an development for us," Wainscott said. "This is a good piece of land. It has the visibility we want, and we're right by the airport. When you're going to the international terminal

[under construction at the airport] , you'll have to drive right by us."

Wainscott said construction is still a year-and-a-half away for the first buildings that will go up at the site, as museum officials get the money together to build facilities. He said a major benefit, however, will be the fact that the site was already a parking lot, with an entrance, and lights put up.

When the museum is completely built, Wainscott said, it will have more than 100,000 square feet of space, and museum officials, led by former state Rep. Mike Glanton, will pursue official affiliation with the Washington D.C.-based Smithsonian Institute. Glanton is a member of the museum's board of directors.

"The Smithsonian requires you to have a building before they will grant you 'affiliate' status," Wainscott said. "So, we are building the museum facilities to comply with Smithsonian affiliate standards."

He said the museum already has a collection of more than 90,000 objects, covering decades of commercial airline history. Those objects include: flight and maintenance crew uniforms; china plates and cups used to serve meals on flights; flight wings that airlines used to give children, and recordings of old airline commercials, dating back to the 1940's.

Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said he thought it was a good idea to approve the lease for the museum, because "it's a wonderful investment on the part of the county in order to ensure, in the future, that we have a cultural resource."

Wainscott said the support of Glanton and the county commission has been key to making sure the museum took off. Wainscott said Glanton's support has allowed the county to have "such a signature location that's finally going to allow our school buses to stay in this county for a cultural attraction, and to get those school buses from Cobb, and Gwinnett, and Fayette, and Fulton [counties]."