Heading into the new year, the permanent home for the Museum of Flight remains up in the air.
Museum Director Christine Lewis has been talking about terms with both Richard B. Russell Regional Airport in Rome and the Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport. The museum is currently based in Rome.
Floyd County Commissioner Rhonda Wallace — the board’s liaison to the county’s airport commission — said Tuesday a lease is approved and slated to be presented to the museum’s board after Christmas.
Wallace said Lewis and the museum board made very minimal change requests to the originally proposed lease.
“They haven’t communicated to the commission that they are leaving,” she said.
However, on Dec. 18, the Paulding County Airport Authority approved a lease agreement with the Museum of Flight for a two-acre site. It includes plans to construct a hangar to relocate from Rome its collection of historic aircraft and military vehicles.
The Paulding agency also approved a lease with the museum for a 1,500-square-foot space in an airport office building to display artifacts while its hangar is under construction.
Both leases were required to undergo legal reviews before they are sent to the nonprofit museum’s board for final approvals.
Paulding airport director Terry Tibbitts said the museum board could approve the contract and be moved in by the spring.
The Museum of Flight’s website states it is “dedicated to raising awareness of aviation and the important role it has played in shaping our nation’s history.”
The collection of aircraft now is housed in a leased hangar building at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport in Rome, though its administrative offices are in Hixson, Tennessee.
The Museum of Flight was established in 2010 and is a nonprofit funded by corporate and private donations and memberships.
Funding also comes partly from an annual gala event — which is scheduled for the Paulding airport’s terminal building on April 18, 2020, after the Authority approved a special event permit for it in November.
The Paulding airport authority was set to approve the two leases in November but delayed action after Tibbitts left the meeting early due to a pilot’s forced landing of a World War II-era airplane. No injuries were reported.
IThe museum’s collection includes a T-28 “Trojan” Alpha Model, a T-28 “Trojan” Bravo Model, both used in battle during the Vietnam War; and a Beechcraft C-45. Vehicles include a M38A-1 Jeep.
However, Lewis has said it has outgrown its World War II-era hangar space in Rome and some F-14 aircraft it owns must be stored outside.
Lewis could not be reached for comment following the Paulding authority’s action last week.
At the Floyd County airport, the museum gets about 10,000 visitors annually. Lewis told the Paulding agency that’s a direct economic impact of almost $600,000.
Though a number of school groups typically visit the museum, a majority of visitors are adults, she said.
Museum of Flight officials originally stored its collection in Hixson before outgrowing the space and moving it to Floyd County’s airport.
The museum also is a regular donor to children’s hospitals, is involved with Toys for Tots and regular blood drives, and promotes aviation with flyovers and static displays at various events and air shows around the Southeast, its website states.
The proposed Paulding County site near the terminal building formerly was planned for construction of a $30 million state aviation maintenance school. However, the Federal Aviation Administration rejected it in September because the school was not an “aeronautical use of the land,” FAA officials said.
Paulding airport officials have since asked the FAA to consider a nearby site — formerly planned for a county fire station and 911 center — on the airport’s main entrance road that is not connected to the runway area.