Except for a few final touches, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky is ready for the grand opening of its new headquarters at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport.
The facilities have been cleaned, the walls painted. Pictures, plaques and planes have been placed in an eye-catching way.
"It's been a long, hard struggle getting it to where it is now," said Jerry Landreth, one of dozens of volunteers who have been working since early December to get the new headquarters in shape.
The museum moved last year from smaller quarters to the old TAC Air facilities on airport property. It includes an office complex and two hangars — much more space.
Now, most of the museum's large aircraft that sat outside, exposed to the damaging effects of the weather, have a place indoors. The approximately 22,000 square feet of hangar space also allows more aviation memorabilia to be displayed.
The museum's biggest treasures are probably items in an exhibit dedicated to Matthew Sellers, who built and flew the first plane in Kentucky, and memorabilia on display pertaining to the Doolittle Raiders, who participated in the first U.S. air raid to strike Japan after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The new museum also features the Ron Spriggs Exhibit of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Spriggs, a Nicholasville resident, collected the items for the display dedicated to a group of black airmen who fought in World War II. A horse statue symbolizing a Red Tail P-51, which is what the Tuskegee Airmen flew, stands in the museum's lobby.
The new museum also contains a room dedicated to members of the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame, something the old museum didn't have. The museum's gift shop is much larger than the old one. A library and archives, also something new, are still being worked on.
Among the items volunteers have found in boxes stored away for years are photos of Sellers and his quadruplane. Also found was a print of a drawing of the Doolittle Raiders' Tokyo raid done by C. Ross Greening, an Air Force colonel and one of the raiders, while Greening was in a German prison camp during World War II. The print was signed by several Doolittle Raiders. Those items eventually will be framed and added to the exhibits, Landreth said.
There's much more stuff still packed away, he said.
"Lots, that's all I can tell you. We'd like to see most of it come out," he said.
The museum has been closed to regular visitors this week and will be closed next week.
But on Saturday night, a week before the Nov. 19 grand opening celebration, the museum will host the 16th annual Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. Four people with Kentucky ties who have made contributions to aviation and aeronautics will be inducted into the hall of fame during a black-tie dinner.
They are: Charles Gartrell, the first chairman of the Kentucky Aeronautics Commission and the first director of the Kentucky Department of Aeronautics; Richard Mulloy Jr., a veteran of flying "the Hump" over the Himalayas during World War II; Col. Washington Ross, a Tuskegee Airman; and Edward Schneider, the youngest graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
On Nov. 19, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 2 p.m.. That evening there will be a reception and silent auction and a buffet dinner at the museum. Former astronaut and Kentuckian Story Musgrave will be at the ribbon cutting and speak at the dinner. He also will sign copies of his book, The NASA Northrop T-38.
Reservations for the Nov. 19 reception and dinner, which is $25, must be made by Tuesday by calling Paula Frye at (859) 272-3631 or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.