A Paulding board has taken the first steps toward making the county’s airport the new home for an aviation history museum now at Rome’s airport.
However, Museum of Flight director Christine Lewis has been discussing lease terms with both its current home at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport in Rome and Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, the Rome News-Tribune newspapers reported.
Paulding County Airport Authority approved a lease agreement with the Museum of Flight Dec. 18 for a two-acre site for construction of a hangar to relocate from Rome its collection of historic aircraft and military vehicles.
The Authority 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.
But Floyd County Commissioner Rhonda Wallace — the commission’s liaison to Floyd County’s airport commission — said recently a lease was 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 told the Rome newspaper.
Paulding airport director Terry Tibbitts said the museum board could approve the contract and have it operating at the Dallas airport 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.”
Its collection of aircraft now is housed in a leased hangar building at Richard B. Russell Airport though its administrative offices are in Hixson, Tennessee.
It 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 Authority also was set to approve the two leases in November. However, it delayed action on them after Tibbitts left the meeting early to return to the airport because of a pilot’s forced landing of a World War II-era airplane. No injuries were reported.
Its 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,according to the website.
Museum officials have said the collection has outgrown its World War II-era hangar space and some F-14 aircraft it owns must be stored outside.
Lewis said it receives about 10,000 visitors annually which provide a direct economic impact of almost $600,000 to the local economy.
Though a number of school groups typically visit the museum, a majority of visitors are adults, she said.
Museum of Flight officials reportedly originally stored its collection in Hixson before outgrowing the space and moving it to Rome’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 stated.
The site near the terminal building formerly was planned for construction of a $30 million state aviation maintenance school but the federal agency rejected it in September because the school was not an “aeronautical use of the land,” FAA officials said.
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.
For more information about the museum, visit mofts.org.