Air museum ready to begin construction

The Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum plans to begin construction soon to add a storage building after a $70,000 donation brought the project near its fundraising goal.

Construction is set to begin in late July or early August on a proposed 1,800-square-foot building that will be used to store artifacts, said Jim Sellars, past board president.

The Columbus Board of Aviation Commissioners donated $70,000 to the museum on Tuesday for the estimated $162,500 project.

Airport director Brian Payne said the airport board was happy to support the museum’s efforts. “They do a fantastic job of preserving the rich aviation history of the airport,” Payne said.

The museum has raised $158,500, or 95 percent of its goal, for the first phase of the project that will involve the construction of the building and a outdoor patio area, Sellars said. The money has come through private donations and grants.

The air museum, which was founded in 1992, was built to capture history of the former Atterbury Army Air Field, later named Bakalar Air Force Base, and its contributions through the years to the nation’s war effort.

Adding the storage building will allow the museum to free up about 900 square feet of display space in an existing storage area that will be used to display exhibits, Sellars said. Plans are also in the works to add a flight simulator at the museum for the public to use, he said.

The project also includes an outdoor sculpture modeled to look like two propeller blades, estimated to cost $8,000 to $10,000.

That sculpture will be dedicated to the 434th Air Refueling Wing, which was stationed at the base from the late 1940s to 1970 before it was moved to Grissom Air Force Base near Peru, Sellars said.

The patio is being added to generate more foot traffic to the museum with the patio area being a location where organizations can have events, said Nick Firestone, president of the museum board.

Making a donation

To make a donation, members of the public can mail a check to the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum, 4742 Ray Boll Boulevard, Columbus, IN, 47203 with “building fund” in the memo line.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or