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Aviation museum receives largest donation

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

marauz@news-daily.com

The National Museum of Commercial Aviation recently received its single largest donation to date, when it got a Boeing 727 and a Fokker F-27 from Fed Ex, according to the museum's executive director.

"These are our first two completely intact [airplanes]," said Grant Wainscott. The airplanes, which had been used by Fed Ex to ship cargo, are currently located at the museum's permanent, 10-acre site in Forest Park.

"It is a very positive way of giving back to the community where we live and work," said Fed Ex Spokesman Jim McCluskey.

McCluskey said Fed Ex enjoys contributing to local communities and has donated retired aircraft for a number of years. "We have strong presence in the metro-Atlanta community," said the spokesman. "It's something we are pleased to do, and are excited to have the [airplanes] permanently displayed as part of the museum."

Wainscott said the Fokker F-27 will be displayed outside at the museum, and the Boeing 727 will be part of an interactive exhibit inside the building. The exhibit will take passengers through air-cargo and passenger-operations history, he said. "We are going to show how that same plane had three or four lives ... aircrafts have numerous lives and serve different [purposes]," he added.

He said the planes will be a focal point for visitors, once they enter the museum. "Gosh, it will be the biggest thing in the museum," he said.

Once the [Boeing] airplane is restored, a side of it will be painted in United Airlines colors used in the 1960s, and the other side will be painted in Fed Ex colors, he said.

Inside the aircraft, the front half will show the airplane as a passenger aircraft, and the other half will showcase it as a cargo aircraft.

"My father flew this airplane in the 1970s, because he was a pilot for United Airlines," said Wainscott. He said the museum donated the three engines of the Boeing 727 to Atlanta Technical College, which will use them to educate their students in the aviation program.

The Boeing 727 was an United Airlines passenger airplane in 1968, explained Wainscott. Fed Ex took ownership of the aircraft in the 1980s and converted it to a cargo aircraft. "The plane was [originally] built with a cargo door," he said. "It was a Boeing 727-100 convertible."

Wainscott said that these airplanes were designed with cargo-and passenger-aircraft features. "Very few of these exist today," he said.

The Fokker F-27, he said, was also a cargo aircraft used by Fed Ex in the 1980s. The airplane was operated by Mountain Air Cargo, Inc., for Fed Ex. "It [Mountain Air Cargo] was a feeder carrier for Fed Ex and operated in smaller markets," he said.

He said the airplanes were eventually stationed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and were used to train Fed Ex ramp managers there.

Wainscott said Fed Ex, the National Museum of Commercial Aviation, and a team of experts from states such as Arkansas and Florida, disassembled the Boeing 727. The Fokker F-27 was disassembled by museum and Fed Ex volunteers.

During a recent gala celebration on behalf of the aviation museum, the museum received $50,000 from Fed Ex for the disassembling services provided on the Boeing 727, he said.

"By next year, we expect them to be reassembled and restored aircraft," said Wainscott. The museum, he said, is searching for people with experience in aviation maintenance, who would volunteer for this project. Those interested should call the museum, at (404) 675-9266.

Wainscott said David Sutton and Beth Rush of Fed Ex's aircraft acquisition sales, were his contacts for the big donation. He said he was in communication with them for about four years.

He said he knew Fed Ex donated their aircrafts, instead of scrapping them, so he called the company and asked for their partnership. "We told them what we were looking for, that we wanted a [Boeing] 727, and they told us they had two aircrafts at Hartsfield-Jackson," he said.

Wainscott added that last weekend's gala was an overall success for the museum, raising more than $10,000. Wings Financial Credit Union presented the museum with a check for $6,000, and The Wainscott Family Fund of the Community Foundation of Collier County donated its annual contribution of $5,000, for the museum's children and education outreach efforts, Wainscott said.