Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cactus Air Force Plans New Aviation Museum

A Cessna T-41B idles on the runway at the Carson City Airport.

Cactus Air Force—a privately owned and operated military aircraft and vehicle restoration organization—recently invited me to check out what they do best: fly vintage military airplanes. Dedicated to preserving, restoring, and educating the public on aviation and military history, Cactus Air Force is making strides toward improving the longevity of vintage aircraft in Nevada.

I'll admit I'm not the most comfortable person around airplanes and was hesitant when I received the offer. However, after mustering up the courage to fly "into the danger zone," I walked away from my flight with an enhanced knowledge and a new appreciation for aviation.

Doug Thorngren, director of public relations and operations and pilot at Cactus Air Force, took me for a spin in the skies above Carson City in his Cessna T-41B. The day was windy, and the turbulence had me gripping my handle firmly, but focusing on the view of the capital city from this vintage military aircraft did well to calm my nerves. After about 30 minutes in the air I saw how easy it was to fall in love with these beautiful machines.

Piloting aircraft since he was 18, Thorngren understands the necessity to get kids involved in aviation at a young age. To reach this goal, the Cactus Air Force is teaming up with the Carson City Airport Authority to open the Wings and Wheels Museum, a public museum dedicated to U.S. military aircraft and vehicles built since WWII. The 12,000-square-foot museum will include a number of indoor exhibits, as well as a large outdoor tarmac area with aircraft and vehicle displays.

“We just really want to be good stewards and educate people about aviation,” Thorngren says. “We hope to accomplish that by building this educational museum.” The museum, set to open in fall 2013, gives visitors a chance to see decades' worth of military aviation history up close.