Wichita’s Aviation Gem
05.22.09 · Sonia Greteman
Wander by the Kansas Aviation Museum (and you really should) and you may find Director Lon Smith doing anything from conducting a tour for international visitors, writing clever scripts for VIP events or supervising one of the many ongoing projects. Wherever you find him, it’s a good bet he won’t be there long. In fact, it may seem like wherever you go, you’ll find Smith there ahead of you.
Thanks to Smith and a host of dedicated volunteers, the museum is looking spiffier by the month. The historic offices now sparkle with new paint and carpet and some expert assistance from Wichita’s Scott Rice Office Interiors. The once-elegant grand entry – witness to celebrities and the giants of aviation in the 1930s and ’40s – takes on a little more of its former glory with each new restoration effort. Outside, a Boeing B-47 built in Wichita looks more and more like the warplane that left the factory 50 years ago.
A Happening Hub
We visited earlier this week as part of our ongoing project to create a history exhibit for Wichita’s new Mid-Continent Airport terminal that does justice to the city’s long heritage as the Air Capital of the World. The museum was vibrant with activity. When we arrived, Smith was outside helping resuscitate the lawnmower. Inside, workers mounted scaffolds in the main lobby, renewing stenciled details on the high ceiling. Smith was there overseeing the operation. (Wasn’t he just outside?) Up in the museum’s unbelievable, voluminous collection of original documents and photographs, volunteers helped us find and duplicate a number of priceless photos that richly chronicle the story of aviation in Wichita.
On many days, enthusiasts pool their hundreds of years worth of experience to restore irreplaceable pieces of aviation history.
Jewel of Flight
Think of the museum like a multifaceted gem. Picture Smith and his legion of helpers diligently polishing away, one facet at a time. (Well OK, Smith might be working on four or five at any given time.)
As we say, you really should go see for yourself. If you haven’t been for awhile, you’ll be pleasantly delighted with what you discover there.