Photo by Curt Yeomans
The National Museum of Commercial Aviation has 8,000 pieces of aviation memorabilia in its collection. Museum officials said they are planning to kick-off a capital campaign to raise $2 million for construction of a new facility, during the museum’s Annual Gala on June 23.
Officials at the National Museum of Commercial Aviation are projecting that attendance at the little museum tucked away in a Forest Park shopping center will — pardon the pun — take flight this year.
Grant Wainscott, the museum’s executive director, said the museum is on track to have 5,000 visitors this year at its 6,000-square foot facility, located at 5442 Frontage Road, Suite 110, in Forest Park.
These people are getting to try out flight simulators, see old airline promotional items and old flight attendant uniforms. They are also getting to see rare aviation artifacts, such as what is believed to be one of the last flight schedules ever published for the doomed German Zeppelin known as the Hindenburg.
What to know about the National Museum of Commercial Aviation
Collection size: 8,000 items.
Location: 5442 Frontage Road, Suite 110, Forest Park, Ga. 30297.
Hours of operation: Wednesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m., to 4 p.m.; group tours available with advance notice.
Admission: Adults —$4, Children (4-18) —$2, Family Passes — $10, Annual Memberships — $25.
Phone number: (404) 675-9266.
Wainscott, who is also Clayton County’s economic development director, explained a recent partnership with the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau has led to a hefty increase in the number of tours coming to visit the museum.
“It’s a good sign,” the museum’s executive director said. “The CVB has really put us on the map with tour operators, and they are doing a lot of social media stuff to promote us, and we’re really seeing it pay off. We’ll probably see double the amount of people we saw last year [by the end of 2012].”
Wainscott concedes that the museum can afford to grow only so much in its current space, however. The current location can really only handle a maximum of approximately 6,000 visitors per year. The museum is set to kick off a new capital campaign, where private individuals and companies can make donations to raise the remaining funds needed to build a larger facility during its Annual Gala fundraiser, on June 23.
The capital campaign will allow the museum, which has a collection of 8,000 pieces of commercial aviation memorabilia, to stay on schedule to break ground next summer on a new, 18,000-square foot facility just off Charles W. Grant Parkway, in Forest Park.
“The space is being designed to accommodate 50,000 visitors per year,” Wainscott said.
The fourth annual “Gala” is set to begin at 6 p.m., at the Georgia International Convention Center, located at 2000 Convention Center Concourse, in College Park. Individual tickets for the event are $75, and corporate sponsorships of entire tables begin at $1,000.
But, much like the number of people visiting the museum, the number of people planning to attend the gala is also on the rise, and that means remaining available space is now limited.
“The event has grown each year we’ve had it, so [last] year, we had to move it into the Georgia International Convention Center,” Wainscott explained. “Last year, we had 130 people attend the Gala. We’ve already sold 150 tickets for this year’s event.” He added, “I’ve only got about 15 to 20 individual tickets left to sell.”
If the name of the fund-raiser sounds vaguely familiar, that is because it used to be called the “Not-So-Gala Gala.” The museum’s executive director explained people have over the years asked for more amenities to be added to the annual event — such as a larger buffet and chocolate fondue fountain — and each addition has made a little bit bigger of a fund-raiser.
This year’s event is scheduled to feature an 18-piece swing band and a key note address by Porsche Cars of North America Chief Executive Officer Detlev von Platen.
Still, it is keeping some ties to its roots as a casual affair.
“It’s not a black-tie event,” Wainscott said. “You’re just as likely to see someone show up in khakis and a polo, as you are to see someone who is more dressed up.”
There will also be a silent auction for 80 items, ranging from aviation-themed ornaments, to DVDs, to children’s games, to an Android tablet, to biplane lessons, to Southwest Airlines tickets, to exclusive trips to California’s Sonoma Wine Country, the 2012 Primetime Emmys, and British Columbia.
Museum officials are also expected to crow about some of the advancements they have made recently. Wainscott said he has received more and more donations in recent years from companies that deal with airplanes, ranging from FedEx and the United Parcel Service (UPS), to Delta Air Lines.
A recent contribution from Delta, he said, includes three MD-88 Cockpit Training devices, which the airline previously used to teach pilots how to fly DC-9 aircraft. On top of the donations, he added that the museum reached a milestone on Wednesday, when it sold its 500th annual membership.
All of these things will be highlighted at the Gala, Wainscott said. That is one of the key purposes behind holding what could be called the “Now-So-Gala Gala” after all.
“It’s a chance to thank our big donors and sponsors, and to let them know what we’ve been up to over the last year,” the museum’s executive director said.
For more information about the museum, or to purchase tickets for this year’s Gala, log on to www.nationalaviationmuseum.com.