Airport museum expands hours

Columbus’ Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum has expanded its hours to meet visitor demand.

The museum this year will be open two more hours daily Tuesday through Saturday, extending its hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We were known as the best-kept secret in Columbus,” museum volunteer Jim Sellars said.

“Since we added the media center and enlarged the museum, we have had nothing but really good comments about it,” he said

When museum volunteers noticed more visitors arriving in the afternoon, being open only until 2 p.m. wasn’t going to be sufficient, museum volunteer Gordon Lake said.

While the volunteers would never ask anyone to leave at closing time, Lake said it became clear that longer afternoon hours were needed.

The museum has about 8,000 to 10,000 visitors per year, with about 40 percent of them from foreign countries, Sellers said.

Last year, during the Columbus Municipal Airport’s Aviation Day on Aug. 18, the museum had a record 1,000 visitors in one day.

The museum, located next to the airport on the grounds of the former Bakalar Air Force Base, has undergone two renovations during the past six years.

Due to its location on the far north side of the city, Sellars said the museum is out of the way for some visitors, but attendance has picked up after the renovations.

In 2009, a media center was added in a design to resemble the interior of a military glider plane.

After being closed from September 2013 to April 5, 2014, for renovations, the museum added a library, conference room and a replica of an Army barracks.

The renovation doubled the museum’s square footage from 3,068 to 7,200.

The museum floor is set up by time period, covering World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cuban missile crisis.

Thirteen custom airplanes hang from the ceiling throughout the museum. Exhibits include a rebuilt World War II army barracks with two beds, a World War II rotating beacon and a 100-pound practice bomb that was made by Noblitt-Sparks.

The museum receives a yearly stipend of $16,500 from the airport for operating costs, which includes utilities and the maintenance for museum displays.

Admission is free, but Sellars said the museum does accept donations.

The museum receives $4,000 to $5,000 per year from donations, and an additional $4,000 to $5,000 from membership fees.

Former airport director and museum volunteer Wendell Ross said the museum has 35 working volunteers between the ages of 14 and 94, and 90 percent of those are veterans.

He said the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum, which was dedicated on Veterans Day in 1992, has vastly exceeded original expectations from its planning stages 25 years ago.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Address: 4742 Ray Boll Blvd., Columbus

Phone: 812-372-4356

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission: Free, donations accepted

On the web:

Annual membership: Individual, $25; family, $35; sustaining, $100; patron, $250; and corporate, $500.