Photo by Heather Middleton
By M.J. Subiria Arauz
The land was only recently acquired, but the nation's first
commercial aviation museum has many plans for its permanent location.
The National Museum of Commercial Aviation, in Forest Park, is
working to move from its second interim facility to its new 10-acre
property full time by the end of May 2012, said Grant Wainscott,
executive director and chief curator of the museum, a non-profit
organization. The museum is currently located in a 6,000-square-foot
facility at 5442 Frontage Road, Suite 110, in Forest Park.
"Our goal is to have an interim operation ... some type of an interim
operation open by this time next year," he said. "So within 12 months
or so, we expect to be closing down where we are here [in Forest
Park] and moving on to the site."
Wainscott, who is also the economic development director for Clayton
County, said that when the transition occurs, the museum will be
housed in a third interim facility, which will be slightly larger and
composed of modular units.
A campaign for the permanent building will begin in January 2012, and
the museum's first structure could break ground in 24 to 36 months,
he said. The museum's permanent site will feature a 40,000-square-
foot building the museum is calling "The Airline Education Center,"
which will be the museum's first phase. The building is anticipated
to be completed about three years after breaking ground, Wainscott said.
He said the first phase of the project will cost between $12 million,
and $15 million. "It is important that we build this educational and
cultural amenity without committing the taxpayers," he added. "The
museum will fund-raise privately and look for grants and contributions."
The museum will provide an educational experience for visitors, but
also promote careers in the aviation industry and help enhance
Atlanta as an aviation city, said Wainscott.
The land for the museum is located off of Interstate 75 at exit 239,
also known as the C.W. Grant Parkway/Henry Ford II Avenue/Central
Avenue exit, according to Wainscott.
The Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson
Atlanta International Airport is scheduled for completion by spring
2012, and Wainscott said motorists driving to the international
terminal will have to take exit 239, and drive around the museum.
He said that from an economic development perspective, the museum
will be a catalyst to the Mountain View area redevelopment project,
in Clayton County. "Clayton County has a lot of great reasons to
support the museum, but it's not just a museum for museum's sake,"
said Wainscott. "There is a much larger economic development picture
here at play."
Wainscott said the museum is currently working to transfer 100,000
items from its collection, including items that are stored in various
locations across the country, to the permanent site by the move-in
date. "We've been collecting for eight years, so now that we own the
land, now it's time to start bringing everything home basically, and
take the aircraft that we've acquired and some cockpits and start to
bring all that stuff in," he said.
Some of the items in the museum's collection include a Delta Boeing
727 cockpit, a Convair 240 cockpit and a Boeing 757 cockpit in the
Mojave Desert; a Link Trainer, one of the earliest flight simulators,
located in New Hampshire; and several hundred aircraft seats in
central Florida, said Wainscott. The airline seats will eventually be
stationed in the Airline Movie Theater, at the Airline Education
Center. "We are going to have a hundred-seat movie theater hall where
we can show movies, have events and we are going to use those seats
in that theater," he said.
The aircraft seat donation will be announced during the museum's
annual gala, on Saturday, May 14, at 6 p.m., at the Georgia
International Convention Center, 2000 Convention Concourse, College
Park, according to the executive director. Tickets to the fund-
raising event are $75 per person, and can be purchased online by
visiting www.nationalaviationmuseum.com. The seats' donor will be
revealed during the gala, Wainscott said.
Wainscott said the gala will also highlight two gentlemen from
California, who donated nearly 12,000 items to the museum. The
donation was completed in November 2010, and mostly included China
sets. The museum is keeping some for its collection and is selling
the rest in its online store. The sale has assisted the museum in
raising close to $3,000, he said.
"They [donors] have allowed us to take those things for the
collection ... and sell the rest to raise money for the museum,"
explained Wainscott. "It has been our most significant donation to
date from a single donor."
The museum will also include a flight simulator room entitled,
"Simulator Experience," said Wainscott. The room will display an
exhibit, in which visitors will learn how flight simulators, from the
earliest, to the most current, taught pilots how to maneuver
airplanes. Each simulator will be accompanied by a cockpit of the
aircraft it simulates. "You are going to go around a room in a circle
and see each of these eras of cockpit training, in a simulator along
with a cockpit, and be able to get a complete ... history of flight
training and simulator training," said Wainscott.
He said the museum identified the land for its permanent home near
Hartsfield-Jackson about five years ago, but began to actively pursue
it in 2007.
In particular, said Wainscott, with the assistance of Gerald Ross,
chief engineer and deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of
Transportation (GDOT), and Mike Glanton, a former state legislator,
museum officials were able to meet with GDOT.
The property belonged to GDOT, and had not been used for about 10
years, he said. The property was a park-and-ride lot for the Georgia
Regional Transportation Authority's Xpress bus service when the
Mountain View area had residents, he added.
Wainscott said the museum dealt with GDOT and the U.S. Department of
Transportation to acquire the property. "So ... in a landmark
partnership between the feds, the state DOT and Clayton County, [the
county] was able to receive the property absolutely free at no cost,"
The county became the owner of the land in February, and is currently
leasing it to the museum for $1 a year, for 50 years, Wainscott said.
"It is pretty much an in-kind lease ... that is a typical non-profit
arrangement," said Wainscott.
Wainscott said he can't believe how far the museum has come, since it
"It has come so quickly, much better than we'd ever anticipated,"
said Wainscott. "People in Atlanta have a special place in their
hearts for the airline industry and that has really become evident in
the number of visitors that we have here, the number of donors, the
number of museum members."