Aerospace Museum flying highApr 08, 2021 11:46AM ● By Becky Ginos
HILL AIR FORCE BASE—The Hill Aerospace Museum is packed with history – both inside and out. Taking a stroll through the grounds, visitors can stand beneath planes that each tell a story of military service. Inside are rows and rows of all types of aircraft used by the Air Force. Now the museum will soon get an additional gallery that will enhance the visitor experience as the Utah Legislature has appropriated $12 million toward construction of a third hangar.
“It’s been in the works for years and years,” said Aaron Clark, Hill Aerospace Museum director. “Initially we want to get the aircraft outside inside. Utah’s weather is pretty brutal.”
Currently there are 22 aircraft displayed outdoors, he said. “The new hanger will add 150,000 – 175,000 square feet of internal space. It will allow us to increase our storylines and narrative with more ground to place artifacts on exhibit. If we wanted to grow there is no room so this will give us the space to add additional aircraft.”
For example, there’s a C-54 that was used primarily in Berlin, best known for the Candy Bomber (Gail Halvorsen), said Clark. “We’ll be able to bring that inside and dive in deep into the contributions of that effort. That’s the type of things we’re looking at.”
Clark said they’ll leave two or three aircraft outside of the museum to help people to identify it as an aircraft museum and make that visual connection.
The third hangar will be parallel to the existing structure, he said. “The plan is to have all the galleries connected in the middle. It will be the biggest of the three structures we have. An added benefit is that it will increase options for gatherings such as school graduations and military events.”
Clark said they usually hold the Utah Military Academy graduation but this will allow for larger events to occur, accommodating up to 400 – 600 people. “Right now we can hold about 250. We layout the aircraft with a large opening at one end so they’re surrounded by all these significantly historical airframes. So it’s pretty cool.”
New signage and exhibits will be created once the aircraft is moved inside, he said. “It will tell the story of combat and those who flew them. There is a wide array of options we can do getting them out of the weather. There will be complete environmental, stabilizing controls for these artifacts that we’ve needed for quite some time. We hope to get it through all the galleries but definitely the third gallery.”
Clark said they hope to start the construction by next year. “It takes a lot of planning, especially when you're dealing with moving these historical airframes. Once it’s complete, it will make us the largest field museum in the Air Force with close to 300,000 square feet of indoor space – which is pretty big.”
Although the museum was closed for a time during the pandemic it is now open for business, Clark said. “Our education center is alive and well. We’ll be starting the STEM Summer Passport program that will be held in house and virtually so families can do it here or at home. It starts in June and runs through August. It’s a popular course. At the end we hold a graduation ceremony and give out a certificate and wings. The kids love it.”
The museum also does a lot of outreach, he said. “We’re more than happy to come out to a school. Schools, youth groups or others can just give us a call.”
Clark said they also have a robust internship program. “We partner with all the major universities in and out of state. Interns have to get a certain number of hours to get a scholarship.”
Students can intern in public history (curation), education where teachers create a lesson plan and curriculum just like they would in a regular class and aircraft restoration, he said. “There are interns from Salt Lake Community and Utah State working on airframes.”
The intern program is offered year round, Clark said. “We’re open throughout the year so we need help throughout the year. Many of our interns have gone on to bigger and better things. It seems to be working pretty well, so we’re pretty happy about it.”
The Hill Aerospace Museum is one of the highest rated activities in northern Utah. It is located on the northwest corner of Hill Air Force Base. For more information visit www.aerospaceutah.org.