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Baker Arts Center | Five State Free Fair | Mid-America Air Museum
When the U.S. Army Air Corps closed its B-24 training base after World War II, Liberal could have resigned itself to a western view of a huge, empty hanger surrounded by an acre or two of bleak, cracking concrete.
Instead, with countless hours of volunteer work and the generosity of private contributors, years after the war ended and a Beech Aircraft manufacturing plant came and went, the property was transformed into the Mid-America Air Museum, Kansas' largest air museum and the fifth-largest in the nation.
Located on the west edge of Liberal, the museum boasts a collection of military aircraft, civilian aircraft and aerospace and aviation exhibits - over 100 in all that executive director Greg Kennedy describes as phenomenal.
"You'd be hard pressed to find an aviation museum with the diversity of airplanes we have anywhere else in the world. We have everything from hang gliders to Mach 2, but the real strength of the museum's collection is in our general aviation collection."
A focal point of the museum is its Dwane Wallace collection. Wallace's widow, Velma, placed these airplanes on loan to the Mid-America Air Museum, bestowing it with the honor of displaying and maintaining this significant collection. Then there is the prestigious collection of Col. Tom A. Thomas - 52 planes valued at $3.1 million.
A NASA exhibit features artifacts and displays from the United States' space agency. Other exhibits detail the history of the Liberal Army Airfield, Liberal native Gen. Larry Welch, the B-24 raids on Ploesti, Romania, during World War II, and Thomas, whose aircraft form the nudeus of the MAAM collection.
The museum also boasts a hall of science, which demonstrates the principles of flight in a way children can understand.
Those displays are the beginning of what Kennedy aims to expand upon, enlarging the technical material familiar to aviation buffs with stories that speak to all the museum's visitors.
"We have a great museum; now I want to tell more of the story of the planes. Why are they significant? How do they fit in with the history of aviation? What role did they play in technology?"
What: Kansas' largest air museum
Where: 2000 West 2nd.
Hours: 8 am - 5 pm Monday - Friday
10 am-5 pm Saturday
1 pm - 5 pm Sunday
Phone: (316) 624-5263
Admission: $2 - $5.
Director: Donald Westfall
To reach an even broader group of visitors, the MAAM sponsors a variety of "outreach" programs. Among them:
- Camp Falcon Aviation Day Camp, for children fifth-grade through eighth-grade. This day camp, held in several sessions throughout the summer, provides fun, hands-on education for kids.
- A reunion for Army Airmen who participated in the Ploesti Air Raids, as well as a 50-year anniversary celebration for the Liberal Army Air Base. Future reunions for various branches of military veterans are planned.
- Aero Fun, a two-day celebration of recreational flight, from hot air balloons to model aircraft and rockets, home-built aircraft and airplane restoration.
- New exhibits, including "Supersonic Flight," which opened in May 1998; and "Five Centuries of Flight: From Leonardo da Vinci to the Moon," which opened in August 1998.
Last Updated: 18-Oct-04
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