Air Museum To Open Its Doors

Many children dream of one day becoming a pilot or an astronaut.

For area residents who want to continue to learn more about aviation and space exploration, though, the Lucille M. Wright Air Museum will officially open the doors to its new location at the corner of West Third and Main streets Saturday.

The opening, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will offer activities for visitors of all ages, from aviation exhibits to hands-on, space-science activities.

Attendees will be able to control a rover in the “Mars yard” or see the planetarium that is being built.

“We’re hoping to have the planetarium completely finished by Saturday,” said Christopher Centi, of Centi Astro-Space Activities. “Even if it isn’t completely finished, we’ll be able to bring people in to show them the planetarium. If it is completed, though, we’ll be able to actually show a short demonstration of what will be available in the future.”

According to Centi, the process of moving the museum from its home at the Jamestown airport began a little more than a year ago, but it has taken some time for things to develop at its new downtown location.

“Some of the displays and exhibits just weren’t usable anymore,” said Centi, whose primary projects were the “Mars yard” and the planetarium. “So we developed some new displays that were never at the airport.”

Throughout the moving process, Centi said they let visitors come in to see the progress as long as there were workers at the new location. For its official opening, the museum will be offering visitors the chance to sit in and try out the controls of a real mini helicopter, see the Great Lakes Biplane used for the student exploratory aircraft mechanics classes and learn why an airplane can lift off the ground by seeing a Bernoulli exhibit. There are also exhibits that show aviation history in Chautauqua County and local connections to World War II and the Vietnam conflict.

“This museum is for any age group and even entire families,” said Centi. “We have a ‘Fly To Learn’ simulation that has already been implemented in two schools in Jamestown, so we’re hoping that kids will come in to use that and the ‘Mars yard,’ which is outfitted with a remote control rover with a small camera. It transmits the image to a television, and I’ve been mapping out different routes so people can try to drive the terrain.”

The helicopter on display is a fully functional helicopter that was built from a kit and donated to the museum.

“Kids can get in there and use some of the controls,” said Centi. “It will show them how the blades move and how a real helicopter works.”

Following the May 4 opening, the museum will have regular hours including Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The museum will also be available for activities with schools and other groups during these hours or by appointment.

“Right now it’s free to visit the museum, there’s no admission – we do have a donation box, though,” said Centi. “We have had people come in and they’ve given some money towards our projects. We’re still talking about the possibility of an extra fee for the planetarium, but we haven’t set that up yet. For Saturday it’s free, though. A membership program is also in the works

The museum is located at 300 N. Main St. right across from the Lucy-Desi Museum. For more information, visit its website at: www.lucilemwrightairmuseum.org or call 664-9500.