URBANA — The Champaign Aviation Museum broke ground Tuesday on phase I of an expansion that will eventually double the size of the facility – which has drawn interest and tourists from all over the country and parts of the world.
According to the museum’s proponents and supporters, “this multi-purpose facility is enthusiastically dedicated to education, archive stewardship and fabrication. The museum continues to grow its collection for all generations to be able to see, touch and feel history.”
The museum recently received a state grant which State Senator Matt Huffman was instrumental in securing. Huffman was among the various local dignitaries and volunteers who attended the festivities and reception celebration.
The Champaign Aviation Museum is also home to a flying Mitchell B-25 bomber that can be seen at area airshows. The museum is currently restoring the B-17 “Flying Fortress” to airworthiness. This is only possible with the volunteer workforce of more than 400 individuals who have come from all over the state of Ohio – including Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati and many other towns and villages.
“They are the heart of the museum,” said Executive Director Dave Shiffer. “It is only with the hard work and dedication of our volunteers that we stand here today.” There are those who travel from Indiana, Florida, Missouri and California just to spend a few hours working on this project.
The words from the late William E. Boeing can certainly resonate with the volunteers of the Champaign Aviation Museum. They simply refuse to believe that “it can’t be done.” The project has been ongoing since late 2005.
The Flying Fortress project is comprised of five B-17 aircraft built during the 1940s. Only a portion of each of these aircraft will be used on the finished model due to stress, cracks and corrosion damage. The majority of the aircraft will be comprised of all new material. It could be said that this B-17 Flying Fortress will be the newest model around.
Visitors to the museum have prime access to the museum’s attractions. There are no ropes between tourists and the homemade displays, exhibits or the aircraft that is being fabricated in the hangar. Visitors are permitted to tour the fabrication area and the volunteers welcome their questions. Many World War II-era aircraft are static and others have been known to stretch their wings on a sunny day.
The Champaign Aviation Museum does not charge for admission but gladly accepts donations. The visitors come from many locations around the world including England, Holland, Canada and Mexico.
The Champaign Aviation Museum is non-profit 501(c)3 continuing to raise funds through generous donations.
For more information about donating to the museum, please direct emails to www.ChampaignAviationMuseum.org.
This story was assembled from information furnished by Champaign Aviation Museum volunteer Christine Detwiler.