Why was there a need for a fourth building?
The climate-controlled fourth building gives the museum dedicated gallery space to present the Air Force’s past, present and future in space and the opportunity to consolidate the presidential and research and development aircraft, which were previously located on the controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson AFB, to the museum’s main campus. In addition, the Air Force’s airlift and aeromedical evacuation mission will be explained.
How large is the building?
The fourth building is 224,000 square feet and is similar in size and shape to the museum’s three other hangars.
What will people see in the new building?
There are four galleries in the new building – Presidential, Research and Development, Space and Global Reach, and visitors can see 10 presidential aircraft, a world-class collection of flight test aircraft, exciting space artifacts and huge cargo planes. Visitors can climb aboard the space shuttle exhibit, walk through four presidential and three cargo aircraft, and try out the Air Force Museum Foundation’s new suite of simulator rides. Click here to see photos of the fourth building.
For a complete list of aircraft and exhibits in each gallery, click on the gallery names.
Research and Development Gallery
The world’s largest collection of test aircraft under one roof is on display in the R&D Gallery. The centerpiece of the gallery is the world’s only remaining XB-70A Valkyrie. A very popular artifact for visitors, the Mach 3 (2,000+ mph) Valkyrie was a highly-advanced aircraft tested in the 1960s.The R&D Gallery’s diverse collection ranges from World War II up to the present, representing advances in technological problem solving and increasing the museum’s opportunities to teach STEM themes and principles.
The Space Gallery showcases the Space Shuttle Exhibit featuring NASA’s first Crew Compartment Trainer (CCT), which was used to train space shuttle astronauts for their missions. The exhibit allows visitors to experience a full-size representation of a NASA space shuttle payload bay, which displays a Teal Ruby satellite, and look into the flight deck and mid-deck levels of the CCT. The gallery also includes the massive 96-ton Titan IVB space launch vehicle, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft, and several experimental aircraft and even balloon gondolas that helped pave the way to space flight. Formerly top-secret satellites and related items will showcase the Air Force’s vast reconnaissance, early warning, communications and other space-based capabilities.
Global Reach Gallery
An important element of Air Force history is told in the Global Reach Gallery. Providing airlift remains a major mission of the U.S. Air Force and it forms a critical part of the Air Force’s ability to maintain global reach. Visitors will be able to walk through three of the four aircraft featured in this gallery – the C-141C Hanoi Taxi, which airlifted the first American prisoners of war to freedom from Gia Lam Airport in Hanoi, North Vietnam, in 1973, as well as the C-82 and C-130E. The gallery also includes the C-21, which was used for airlift and aeromedical evacuations.
The museum is the repository for Air Force aircraft that have been retired from the presidential aircraft fleet. The Presidential Gallery features 10 historical aircraft representing more than 70 years of dedicated presidential service. Visitors can walk through four of them, including the VC-54C Sacred Cow used by President Roosevelt, the VC-121E Columbine III used by President Eisenhower, the VC-118 The Independence used by President Truman and the VC-137C, also known as Air Force One, Special Air Mission (SAM) 26000, that served eight presidents including Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton. SAM 26000 carried President Kennedy’s body back to Washington, D.C. from Dallas after his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, and served as the location where President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the new president.
What are some of the educational opportunities available in the new building?
A great feature in the fourth building is the addition of three dedicated, interactive educational spaces, known as STEM Learning Nodes. These “gallery classrooms” accommodate student-centered, technology-enhanced learning through hands-on programs, demonstrations and lectures. When the museum’s Education Division is not using them for structured programming, the museum will be able to offer a variety of programs to visitors such as science and engineering demonstrations, hands-on activities, special presentations, videos and more.
Besides the aircraft walk-throughs, what other things can visitors do in the fourth building?
In addition to walking through the Space Shuttle Exhibit, four presidential and three cargo aircraft, visitors can try out landing a shuttle orbiter in the free Space Shuttle Landing Experience. Also in the fourth building are new simulator rides from the Air Force Museum Foundation. The Pulseworks Virtual Reality Transporter gives visitors a Space Voyage experience where they can see in all directions within a 3D world via high-tech goggles. An Eight Seat Pod, or ESP, motion ride offers an automated experience where the capsule moves up and down and side-to-side to capture the feeling of really flying.
How much did the building cost and how was it funded?
The fourth building was privately financed by the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc., an IRS Section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization chartered to assist the National Museum of the United States Air Force with the development and expansion of facilities. The Foundation gifted $40.8 million for fourth building pre-construction, construction and administration costs as well as additional options and requirements.
Why did the museum decide to move the presidential and R&D aircraft into the fourth building?
The decision to move the presidential and R&D aircraft into the fourth building was driven by the desire to display the world’s largest museum collection of U.S. presidential and R&D aircraft together under one roof in the main facility, as these collections are highly regarded by our visitors. This allows all visitors to have the opportunity to see these aircraft and helps the museum to minimize shuttle bus expenditures.
Were all of the aircraft displayed in the hangars on Wright-Patterson AFB moved into the fourth building?
Nearly all of the aircraft that were on display in those hangars were relocated to the fourth building. The Piper PA48 Enforcer and De Havilland DH 89 Dominie are currently in storage, the F-100D and Fairchild Model 24-C8F will eventually go on display in the Cold War Gallery, and the Piper J3 will go on display in the World War II Gallery.
Is it possible to see aircraft that remain in storage?
Some aircraft located in the restoration facility are available for view during the museum’s Behind the Scenes tours. Aircraft placed in other storage facilities are unavailable to the public.
What will happen to the hangars on Wright-Patterson AFB that housed the Presidential and R&D Galleries?
These hangars will be used by the museum for storage.
Are there any items in the new building that were not previously on display?
The museum has thousands of items in storage, and only about 7% of the artifacts that are in the collection here on the museum’s main campus are on display. The Titan IVB space launch vehicle is one example of an artifact that was previously in storage and is now on display in the fourth building.
Does the museum still plan to get a C-5 and/or KC-135?
In order to make room for the R&D aircraft in the fourth building, acquisition of some global reach aircraft that were originally planned for that building, such as the still active C-5 and KC-135, are being deferred until they can be accommodated.
I’ve heard a little about the retirement of the current Air Force Ones in the news recently. Could the museum get a VC-25 one day?
We are definitely interested in acquiring a VC-25 to include with the presidential collection in the fourth building. Right now, there is not a specific date when the VC-25s will become available, but we expect that at some point during the next decade.
With the museum now being even larger, is there a plan to accommodate visitors with mobility problems?
Additional electric carts and charging stations have been added, and the museum is developing further options that will assist visitors who have mobility concerns.
Where do I park and how do I get to the fourth building?
Visitors will continue to park in the visitor parking lot on the southwest side of the building and enter through the main museum lobby.
The lighting seems brighter in the fourth building than the rest of the museum. Why is there such a difference?
The museum’s exhibit lighting is made up of three major subsets: theatrical overhead lighting, artifact case lighting and wall lights for illumination of exhibit text panels. Previously the museum relied on lighting fixtures that gave off ultraviolet radiation and were harmful to many of the artifacts. Therefore we began looking for lighting alternatives that would preserve the museum’s collection, adequately light our artifacts and provide energy savings. LED technology was identified as the best solution, and we began using LED lighting in all new exhibits.
The fourth building features 100 percent LED lighting and we plan to convert all of our exhibit lighting to LED technology as funding and manpower allow.