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Davis Journal

Flying into the future - new hangar opens at Hill Museum

May 09, 2024 12:44PM ● By Braden Nelsen
The SR-71 “Blackbird” is just one of the many aircraft getting a new life at the L.S. Skaggs Hangar which just opened to the public last week. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

The SR-71 “Blackbird” is just one of the many aircraft getting a new life at the L.S. Skaggs Hangar which just opened to the public last week. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

HILL AEROSPACE MUSEUM – The new L.S. Skaggs Hangar at the Hill Aerospace Museum just had its first week open to the public, and already guests have been in for a treat. The new space brings with it new aircraft displays of course, but has also allowed for the improvement of existing exhibits as the museum continues to improve and develop.

“Each one of the aircraft has their own story,” said Aaron Clark, director of the museum, saying that this new expansion makes it possible not only to display these aircraft but to “expand on airmen’s stories we’ve been unable to tell.” These stories cover the service of men and women in the Armed Forces dating back to the first days of the base and early aviation, and, as Clark explained, it’s not just an impressive assortment of aircraft, “They each have a connection to Utah and to Hill aviation history.”

One such example of a strong Utah connection is the upcoming exhibit featuring nose art of the 509th Composite Group, which was activated and trained at Wendover Army Airfield, Utah. Designed and built by industrial and engineering students, and painted by local artists, the gallery is closely connected to Utah aviation history and shows, in living color those paintings created by those men and women decades ago.

The new hangar has paved the way for many such improvements, making it possible to move many exterior aircraft indoors to better maintain them, freeing up space around the museum, and creating space for new acquisitions like an F-22 Raptor, recently acquired by the museum after it was damaged by Hurricane Michael. The museum team recovered the F-22, demilitarized it, brought it back to Hill, and restored it for the public to see and enjoy. “We’ve taken the museum business very seriously,” said Clark, and with all the improvements, it shows.

The L.S. Skaggs Hangar features an impressive collection of aircraft including several iconic F-16s, the F-22 mentioned above, an SR-71 Blackbird, an F-117 Nighthawk, a U-2 “Dragon Lady” spy plane, and many other unique and impressive aircraft, all with ties to Utah and to Hill. Each of these aircraft has been, or is in the process of being lovingly restored, including things like the tail art, or bomb bay door art like in the Nighthawk, bringing to the surface once more the human aspect, or as Clark put it, “The airman’s touch.”

Walking around the other displays in the museum, the new displays in the L.S. Skaggs Hangar may look a little sparse, but, says Clark, that is by design. In addition to looking for feedback from the public, Clark says that the current layout allows for room to grow and expand, and to let the displays evolve naturally and organically over the years. “It gives us space for decades of storytelling to evolve,” said Clark. 

From the new and restored aircraft in the recently opened hangar to the old favorites being given a new life around the museum, Hill’s dedication to preserving the aviation heritage of Utah is nothing short of inspiring. It’s that commitment that recently earned the Hill Aerospace Museum accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, and has really furthered its mission “to educate and inspire all ages through history, with a focus on the United States Air Force, Hill Air Force Base, Utah Aviation, and unique learning experiences.”

The Hill Aerospace Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, and is free to the public. The museum, along with the newly opened hangar, offers new and exciting ways to engage with aviation history and to learn about Hill Air Force Base, a key fixture in Davis County History for over 80 years.