Cumberland Times-News

September 29, 2012

Airport hears plans for aviation museum

‘We have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stuff,’ says presenter

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— WILEY FORD, W.Va. — Retired Northwest Airlines captain Steve Van Kirk and his brother Malcolm Van Kirk provided the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority with a presentation on a proposed aviation heritage museum during its monthly meeting Thursday.

“We would like you to think about it a little bit and see if this is something you would even entertain,” said Steve Van Kirk, who indicated that, in the meantime, he would start paperwork for obtaining a nonprofit status. “If it is, then maybe we can get back for a meeting soon to talk about specifics of what kind of rents we would need to pay and how we could structure a way to get this thing started.”

Steve Van Kirk said he would like to have the museum ready to go by April 1 and would have a formal presentation at a later date.

“One of the things that we are bringing to the table is all our stuff,” said Malcolm Van Kirk. “We have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stuff that we would like to have on display that people can see.”

Malcolm Van Kirk said that the pair would be interested in a possible 10-year lease with a 10-year option.

The proposed museum would be housed at the former Kelly-Springfield hangar, according to Steve Van Kirk.

Funding for the museum would come from the Van Kirks, the authority, contributions, admission fees, retail sales, corporate donors and other benefactors.

“This is a big project. I think the valley could really use it. I think it would be a real asset to the airport,” said Steve Van Kirk. “I don’t know who else might come in and want that space but we have this vision. We have this dream. I would say for the other museums that we have already been to, we have everything they have and more.”

Steve Van Kirk indicated that they had been looking for space in Maryland for some time and that they had visited the airport last weekend.  

“It really looks like good space,” said Steve Van Kirk. “Our goal has been for a long time to be able to bring together our collection of airplanes, memorabilia and library materials. We have an extensive aviation art collection. We have been collecting for a long time.”

Authority Chairman Max White indicated that the Van Kirks were also interested in the office space in addition to the hangar.

Steve Van Kirk said that they did indeed want the entire office and the hangar.

“We have a lot of work to do internally in the building to get this thing set up, everything moved and ready to open up as a thriving nonprofit business,” said Steve Van Kirk.

Steve Van Kirk indicated that they also want to get the community involved.

“We believe ... that once the word is out in the aviation community and the local community, people will come out and want to be part of this. It’s going to be something where there is a place for anyone to come out and be a participant in the process.”  

The proposed museum would have a media and conference center and a regional aviation hall of fame to honor local people who contributed to surrounding areas, according to Steve Van Kirk. It would also include a veterans honor roll, a retail pilot shop and a gift shop.

“This would be a working, flying active museum,” said Steve Van Kirk. “Projects would be ongoing and airplanes would be flying that are not just going to be sitting in the hangar.”

Steve Van Kirk said there could be fly-ins to the museum and that the space would be a great venue for community events. The Van Kirks said they would also like to initiate an aviation scholarship program sponsored through donations.

“We have in our collection right now about eight airplanes to start this thing off with,” said Steve Van Kirk, who said the largest one was a 1942 DC3.

Steve Van Kirk indicated the museum could be expanded to include a vintage aircraft flight school or regular flight school.

“We have been in the flight training business for over 20 years in Hagerstown and Frederick,” said Steve Van Kirk.

The proposed museum would be open every day of the year with the exception of major holidays, according to Steve Van Kirk.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.