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Ready for Takeoff: The Kansas Aviation Museum

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Upper Control Tower Added, 1941

Photo via kansasaviationmuseum.org.

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One of the Busiest Airports in America, 1944

Photo via kansasaviationmuseum.org.

When it comes to Aviation, Wichita is the place to be. The Aviation Capital of the World, Wichita has more than Eisenhower National Airport to offer to aviation aficionados.

Home to McConnell Air Force base; a total of 11 public airports; multiple aviation themed restaurants; and aviation manufacturers like Spirit, Cessna, Beech, and Bombardier, Wichita is grounded in its aviation roots.

One of the most unique places to learn about our city’s historic ties with the aviation industry is none other than the Kansas Aviation Museum.

 Museum History

The Kansas Aviation Museum’s building alone is historically significant in Wichita. It was once the Wichita Municipal airport! The Building, for which building commenced in 1930, was completed in 1935 after a delay as a result of financial pressures. The building’s control tower was added six years later. In 1944, Mary VanScyoc began work in the tower as an air traffic controller. She was the first female in American history to perform in this role.

Wichita Municipal was once a major stopover for planes, growing to become one of the country’s busiest airports during the 1940’s. By 1944, traffic at Wichita Municipal was so high that a takeoff or landing occurred every 90 seconds.

Many a celebrity visited the airport, including aviation greats such as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. It’s been said that Fred Astaire event performed a song and dance for other travelers while waiting for a flight.

Also in the 1940’s, the airport expanded, gaining two new wings (no pun intended.) This was due primarily to the significant increase in the aviation industry as a result of World War II. It was during this time that a relocation of Wichita’s airport was deemed necessary. In 1951, The United States Air Force announced its intention to erect a base large enough for 6,500 people in Wichita. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that the Air Force would also take charge of Wichita Municipal Airport to be used for pilot training. By 1954, all non-military airline traffic (including commercial traffic) had been moved to what was then Mid-Continent Airport.

The now Kansas Aviation Museum Building was used both by the USAF and the Kansas Air National Guard for the next 30 years. When the building’s had served its purpose, its doors were locked in 1984.

This occurred just as the Wichita Aeronautical Historical Association began searching for a location that would become the Kansas Aviation museum, and the former airport seemed like a perfect fit. Volunteers began cleaning out the property in the late 1980’s and by spring of 1991 the museum’s doors were open.

The Kansas Aviation Museum Today

1937 Swallow

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1937 Swallow

Museum Lobby

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Museum Lobby

KAM\'s Collection of Aircrafts

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KAM's Collection of Aircrafts

U.S. Airforce Aircraft

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U.S. Airforce Aircraft

1957 B-52D Stratofortress

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1957 B-52D Stratofortress

The Kansas Aviation Museum is open six days a week. The world-class collection features over two million aviation related artifacts, including a variety of historically significant and one-of-a-kind aircraft and aircraft engines. At the museum, guests can learn about the following aircrafts:

  • 1937 Swallow
  • Boeing 727
  • Boeing 737-200
  • Cessna 310F
  • Cessna T-37B
  • KC 135E
  • Learjet Model 23
  • Watkins Skylark
  • many more.

A few of these aircrafts are even featured in the museum’s gallery, so you can see them for yourself when you visit.

The Kansas Aviation Museum also houses the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame. Here, you’ll find tributes to individuals who have greatly impacted the aviation industry over the years.

The museum experience becomes event more hands-on for visitors in The Boeing: Science, Math and History Learning Center, which features a flight simulator, a mock control tower, cockpits to play in and more. This facility is also equipped with multiple computer stations with educational software, building toys, and more to help guests explore Wichita's aviation roots.

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