The National Museum of the United States Air Force—the largest military aviation museum in the world—is getting even bigger. The mega-expansion includes a new fourth building with 224,000 square feet of exhibition space.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Louisville District awarded the $35.4 million contract for the expansion project to Turner Construction Co., Washington, D.C., which broke ground in June 2014.
The new, sustainably-designed building, which has been registered Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver by the U.S. Green Building Council will mirror the design of the three existing hangars. The fourth hangar will house aircraft from the museum’s Presidential Aircraft, Research and Development and Global Reach collections, as well as a new and expanded space gallery.
Contractors are currently working on hoisting up the steel trusses to complete the building’s massive structure.
“It’s amazing. It’s like watching a dream come true,” said Fran Duntz, Chairman of the Air Force Museum Foundation. “It’s great to see it come up.”
The Air Force Museum Foundation, a non-profit organization chartered to assist in the development and expansion of the museum’s facilities has helped raise nearly $40 million and continues to raise funds toward their goal of $46 million, which would provide for further options like a west tow path and extension, theatrical lighting, a Titan 4B stand, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning nodes, and wireless capability in the building.
At this point the project is nearly 40 percent complete with the underground utilities and foundation work finished.
“Things change every day out here,” said Museum Director, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jack Hudson. He later added, “It really is an Army that’s working back here. It’s well orchestrated that’s for sure.”
The planning efforts of everyone involved have helped to ensure the project stays on schedule and within budget. Crews will continue working through the winter months, with extra days built into the schedule to account for inclement weather, to complete the frame and roof.
Tim Walsh, Turner Construction Manager, says the project is on schedule and expects that by the end of January the entire structure will be up.
The next phase of the project requires temporary closure of the Missile and Space Gallery, which will connect to the new building. Starting on Dec. 8, the gallery will close for approximately five months so new entrances can be formed on the first and mezzanine levels linking the hangar to the rest of the museum.
Although the closure creates an inconvenience, the benefits are worth the wait, according to Hudson.
“The fourth building will bring many advantages including the relocation of the popular Presidential and R&D gallery aircraft from a controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to the main museum campus where they will be accessible to all visitors along with the Global Reach Gallery and expanded Space Gallery.”
The building will give the museum space to display artifacts that have been kept in storage such as the Titan IV launch vehicle, or ones kept outside in the elements such as the C-141 and C-130E.
The new addition is expected to open in spring 2016 to the one million visitors from around the world who visit the museum each year.
“We are happy to be working with the Air Force Museum Foundation and Turner Construction to provide space for displaying historic artifacts that will continue to tell the story of the U.S. Air Force for years to come,” said Michael Moore, USACE Louisville District project manager.