From Da Vinci to Quilts, Largest Air Museum in Kansas Keeps Growing
Follow US 54 a short distance northwest of Liberal, and you come upon a large warehouse building with white columns. Colorful flowers bloom warmly invite you inside. Located in a former Beechcraft plant, the Mid-America Air Museum is more than just displays of aircraft. It is an aviation experience that is dedicated to appealing to a broad population.
Mid-America is the fifth largest Aviation museum in the country. Since it opened in 1988 it has grown—with over 100 aircraft, both civilian and military, sketchbooks from Leonardo DaVinci, and quilts from 1927—into the largest aviation museum in Kansas. The largest portion of the archived planes came from a single donor. Retired Air Force Colonel Tom A. Thomas, Jr., of Oklahoma City, generously donated 56 planes to the museum.
The spacious floor plan allows the sightseer to tour its many unique galleries. Displays of military aircraft from Korea, Vietnam, World Wars I and II, an exhibit of jet engine parts, a Supersonic Flight Gallery, and a Kansas Aviation Gallery do not disappoint the visitor. Helicopters, experimental planes, and homebuilts spark the aviator’s imagination. Flight enthusiasts will enjoy the World War II Grumman TBM Avenger, and the North American B-25J Mitchell. The Chance Vought F4U-5N Corsair was built too late for World War II but was credited with shooting down a Russian Mig-15 while serving in Korea.
The Five Centuries of Flight gallery offers a visual timeline with miniature planes showcasing how flight began. It comprises sketches from Da Vinci, and the famous Wright Brothers flight in December of 1903. It notates interesting facts such as American Airlines was the first airliner making a profit from passenger service. An aviation quilt display offers a pictoral history of quilt designs throughout the century.”
A 200 person theater/conference center was added along with a gift shop. The Flight Deck Gift shop sells souvenirs, videos, books, t shirts, and models. Special events, programs, feature films, and speakers invite the public to return again and again.
Director Donald Westfall is committed to offering something for the entire family. Mr. Westfall said, “Every year we add more exhibits. We usually receive a couple of planes a year from donations, loans, or the military. We want the whole family to have something to see."
Crowds of up to 12,000 visitors a year come from all over, including New Zealand, South Africa, Tokyo, Italy, and France. Hands on displays such as a paper airplane station and how balloons fly, both entertain and educate children. Reminiscent exhibits including a completely stocked army barrack from World War II, and a 1950s sock hop complete with a mannequin donned in a poodle skirt.
The Mid-America Air Museum is open till 5:00pm every day, closing only for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. With its continuing pursuit of new exhibitions, aircraft, and educational opportunities, the museum offers something for everyone.