By Greg Anderson, Wings Over the Rockies President and CEO
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is planning the busiest year in its history, honoring planes, people and places.
The Experimental Aircraft Association’s B-17 Aluminum Overcast will visit Centennial Airport again this year. From June 4-9, this rare flying aircraft will be on display at Signature Flight Support. Dozens of Wings volunteers put thousands of hours into hosting the airplane, resulting in three consecutive EAA “Best in the Nation” designations from 2005-2007.
Flights and tours in this historic plane will be available to the public. In addition, Wings volunteers will host veterans’ activities, educational flight simulators, book signings and other events.
On Saturday, June 7, an Airpower Heritage Hangar Dance will be held at Centennial Airport’s new XJet facility, just south of Signature. Distinguished veterans from World War II, Korea, Southeast Asia and the Middle East will include Col. Harold “Hal” Weekley, who proudly carries the honor of being the “last combat B-17 driver,” having retired from almost 60 years of Flying Fortress experience.
New exhibits to honor Colorado aerospace pioneers
Three new major exhibits will pay tribute to the heritage of leadership that distinguishes aviation and space in Colorado. On April 25, O.E. “Pete” Bartoe was honored in the museum’s new Jetwing exhibit, sponsored by Ball Corporation. Bartoe designed the aircraft in the 1970s. His groundbreaking design ducted jet exhaust over the leading edges of both wings, to provide extraordinary slow flight and short field performance. The exhibit is the centerpiece in an educational exhibit on the “Four Forces of Flight,” conveying the fundamentals of performance to Wings’ growing visitor and youth programs.
On May 23, Wings will host a reunion of Apollo 13 crewmates and open a new exhibit, “Colorado’s Astronauts. In Their Own Words.” Jim Lovell and Gene Kranz have confirmed attendance to honor Colorado’s Jack Swigert, and the Swigert family will donate his NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award (a piece of moon rock) to the museum. The exhibit will include personal reflections and memorabilia from dozens of participating astronauts.
One in five of all U.S. astronauts have significant ties to Colorado, from birthplace and hometown affiliations, to alma mater and significant employment ties. This one-of-a-kind exhibit is designed to inspire future generations, as astronauts, from Scott Carpenter and Wally Schirra, to recent shuttle astronauts, tell what space is like, “in their own words.”
In July, Wings will open another exhibit honoring Colorado aerospace. The “Chasing Horizons” exhibit will showcase individuals who have circumnavigated the world, from the Douglas World Cruisers to Barrington Irving. Coloradan Steve Fossett will be honored, along with Bill Daniels and Arnold Palmer, both of whom flew into and out of Denver to achieve the feat. A 10-foot diameter, illuminated globe will represent the dedication and spirit that draws adventurers to new horizons.
Revised Hangar 2 plans underway
Wings’ many years of redevelopment efforts with its neighboring Hangar 2 are finding favor with Lowry residents on the way through the entitlements process. Wings is working with a development team on a mixed, adaptive re-use plan that saves the hangar, enhances a Lowry asset, assists Wings with parking and visitor amenities and funds continuing capital improvements planned for the museum’s Hangar 1 facility. Larimer Square Partners has joined the development team to bring a mix of tenants to the site, joining with self-storage and office uses.
Planes, people and places: all are in Wings Over the Rockies’ mission to “educate and inspire through aviation and space.”
For more information about rides in Aluminum Overcast, visit [http://www.b17.org]. For more Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum event information, visit [http://www.wingsmuseum.org].