i've always had an interest in airplanes. it started at a very early age. both my parents had their pilot's licences and would take me up, when i was only a few months old. along with that, growing up, most of my friends had parents that worked in the industry, so most of us had some knowledge of the planes our they worked on. couple that with my own interest in architecture, and the open house the kansas aviation museum hosted last thursday, seemed like the perfect event to attend.
i had visited the museum during a middle school field trip years ago, but remembered very little of it. i took off work early, to attend the event in the daylight. it's location is a little tricky to get to, and has the feeling of being tucked away from the rest of wichita. pulling into the parking lot, i had forgotten how beautiful the building really was, or maybe as a middle schooler just didn't care. it was originally built during the 1930's as wichita's municipal airport, and was crafted in beautiful art deco styling. i followed a few people into the entry. unfortunately it was not into the lobby, but a small room on the side of the building. entering, i had found that i had once again followed the above 65 crowd to the "hot spot" in town that night. i skipped the free appetizers, opting instead to take pictures of everything i could.
wondering around, snapping pictures, it wasn't hard to notice that at one point the whole place had been gutted. everything had been removed including the heating. wondering around, trying to keep warm, i overheard wonderful conversations. old men, telling their wives about what they had flown, or worked on in years past. i even had my own conversation with a museum volunteer that had worked in the building as a baggage handler when it was a functioning airport in 1953. after thanking him for telling his story, i ventured outside to get some shots of planes and the exterior.
leaving the building and walking towards the runway, there was an air of plane travel from years gone by. no awful seating, no lines, no metal detectors, no jetways, just a beautiful walk outside onto the plane. the whole experience made me want to find out more, so i started researching. apparently during the 1940's this had been the fifth busiest airport in the nation. with it not being possible to travel from new york to l.a. non-stop, wichita was the perfect spot to refuel before heading west over the rockies. it was also a hot spot for test flights during the war. during this time aviators such as charles lindbergh, amelia earhart, and howard hughes, spent time in the building, as well as actors like fred astaire, and bob hope.
finding all this out, as well as looking through my pictures, i really felt like museum, is a bit of a diamond in the rough. the potential it has to be an architecture, and historical icon for the city is unbelievable. i don't' feel like it's getting the respect it deserves in either field. hopefully one day, with a little patience and, unfortunately a lot of money, it could regain it's forgotten elegance, and become the jewel it deserves to be in this city.