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Aviation museum reveals plans for permanent home

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

marauz@news-daily.com

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,"

he said.

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

began.

"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."