In our technologically wondrous age – when it seems like the promise of George Jetson’s personal-aircraft-flying, push-button-efficiency life could actually be realized – I’m glad there are still people who care about what’s come before and who are working so diligently to preserve it.

The Kansas Aviation Museum recently dedicated its new special archive center, and I had the privilege of being among the many attendees. Former Wichitan Clay Lacy, a man who himself notched numerous aviation milestones, flew in lead donors and honorees Si and Betty Robin. They own California-based Sensor Systems, the world’s largest aircraft radio antenna company. Si, a past inductee into the prestigious Living Legends of Aviation, holds scores of patents for his innovations over more than four decades. Additional funding for the center came from the Lattner Family Foundation in Florida, Bombardier Learjet and Wichita’s Hypatia Club.

You Must See It to Believe It

The 6,500-square-foot, climate-controlled center houses true treasure. Its archive includes thousands of sensitive originals and one-of-a-kind documents guaranteed to increase the heart rate of any aviation enthusiast. It contains more than 250,000 photographs, negatives and slides of rare aircraft from the late ’20s to today. Films of first flights, factory operations, test flights and company promotions. More than 10,000 books – many no longer in print – dating back to 1905. Original file documents for almost every aircraft registered in the United States from the 1920s through 2004. Flying helmets, jackets and trophies that take you back to the days of the giants – Clyde Cessna, Duane Wallace, Walter and Olive Ann Beech, Lloyd Stearman, Matty Laird, Al Mooney, Bill Lear. And others deserving of our memory – the Rawdon brothers, William Purvis, Charles Wilson, Albin Longren, J.M. Moellendick.

It takes a truly special center to house all these tangible expressions of extraordinary achievements. And, now, the Kansas Aviation Museum has it.

Work Remains

Interested in providing time, talent or treasure to help restore the Kansas Aviation Museum to its original glory – and then some? The museum currently lacks an elevator and has no heat or air conditioning in 70 percent of its building. Ever-enthusiastic Executive Director and rainmaker Lon Smith is working hard to raise a little over a million dollars to get the museum where it deserves to be. Check out its website for ideas of where your support could be used.