The Aviation Museum of Kentucky is looking for a few good mannequins.
Maybe more than a few.
The reason is that the museum is moving to more spacious quarters, which means it will have room to display more of its pilot uniforms, many of which have been boxed up for years. Mannequins work best for such displays, said Jerry Landreth, who has been affiliated with the museum since it started in 1995.
There also will be a lot more space for displaying other aviation-related items that the museum has acquired over the years — items that have been stored throughout Blue Grass Airport property and in other locations — that have never been seen by the public, he said.
Since early December, museum officials, employees and volunteers have been involved with cleaning, painting and refurbishing the old TAC Air facilities at the airport, the museum's new home. They've also moved planes, plaques, photographs and other memorabilia out of the old museum headquarters on airport property and into the new museum buildings.
A recently acquired seaplane that has never been put on display, a gyrocopter and other small aircraft already hang from the ceiling of one of the two hangars at the museum's new home. Last week, a huge pile of other aviation items, including a cockpit mock-up of a Tuskegee Airmen P-51 Mustang, a couple of gliders and a replica of a Matthew Sellers quadruplane, the first plane to be built and flown in Kentucky, sat on the floor below, indicative of just how much work still needed to be done before the museum reopens in the spring.
"What we're going to be able to do is display things better," said Mike Malone, exhibit committee chairman of the aviation museum board.
Most of the large aircraft that were parked outside the old museum, including an F-4 Phantom and an F-14 fighter jet, the type of jet flown in the movie Top Gun, will be displayed indoors at the new museum, he said.
"It's very hard on those airplanes to sit outside," he said. "They just bake out there."
The move means the museum will have about twice the hangar space for planes and about eight times the office space than it used to have, Landreth said. In fact, the museum plans to rent out some of the office space, he said.
The new home includes a conference room and classroom space, which the museum did not have before. The museum's gift shop will be a lot bigger. There will be an executive director's office, something that was "kind of stuck in a corner" at the old museum site. And there are plans for a full-fledged library, instead of a shelf of books, Landreth said.
TAC Air, which serves private and corporate planes and provides fuel and de-icing for commercial planes, moved into a new, multimillion-dollar complex at the airport several months ago. Mustang Aviation, an aircraft maintenance business, has moved into the museum's old location.
Blue Grass Airport spokeswoman Amy Caudill said the museum is leasing its new home from the airport under the same terms it leased its previous facilities. The rent will remain $800 a month, she said.
"It's really coming along nicely," Dr. Ray Garman, museum board chairman, said of the move.
"The move is a major enhancement of exhibit space for the Aviation Museum of Kentucky," he said. The move means the museum will have better accommodations for people who are looking to hold events at a unique venue, he added.
"Where else can you have a wedding reception with airplanes buzzing over you?" he said.
Garman said museum officials have not given up on plans to build a museum. They had wanted to build a headquarters on property at Versailles Road and Man o' War Boulevard, but that property has a scenic easement that doesn't expire for several years. Garman said museum officials also want to have $10 million in the bank before undertaking the building project.
He said part of $1 million that had been saved for a new museum has been spent on the move to the old TAC Air headquarters.