Celebrating Spokane's Troops

by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & rne Weinman is collecting airplanes. A year or two ago, the retired Air Force Colonel-turned-homebuilder returned from Phoenix, where he picked up an old P-17 military plane (the P-17 was flown for about 20 years, beginning in the mid-1920s) and trucked it back to Spokane.

"We had to take the thing apart first. We used slings to hold up the wings," Weinman remembers. "There were only two pins holding each of the wings to the plane. When we got it apart, we loaded the pieces onto an 18-wheeler and drove it back and put it all back together here."

Eventually Weinman hopes to display the plane, and several others, in Spokane's new Armed Forces and Aerospace Museum, to be located on land just southeast of Spokane International Airport, visible from Interstate 90 near the Geiger Interchange.

The museum has been on the drawing board since 1995; it was initially to be located on land at Fairchild Air Force Base. But organizers found a more visible site in the airport's business park. The new facility will feature some of the thousands of artifacts from the now-closed Fairchild Air Force Base museum that are stored at the Northwest Museum of Arts & amp; Culture. "But this won't be just an Air Force museum," says Weinman. "Spokane's military history pre-dates the Civil War, going all the way back to George Wright," he says. "We want to tell the whole story, about all of the service branches."

"I'm not only impressed that they've saved most of the artifacts from what the military evaluated as one of the best museums out there," says Howard Lovering, the museum's consultant who was also involved in creating Seattle's Museum of Flight. "But I'm impressed by the positioning of the new facility. It's not just an old heritage museum. It's a history of the military and technology. That's a wise move."

Organizers say the new facility will have aircraft on display, classrooms, flight simulators and theatre spaces, in addition to galleries with exhibits that will be changed a few times a year. The museum will be located so as to allow planes to fly into SIA and taxi over to the facility.

"It's taken us a long time to get the Air Force to give the museum artifacts to us and to get the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to approve our site," says Weinman. "Now we're ready. We have a building design, drawings, everything except the money we need."

The cost for the first phase of the project is estimated to be $12 million, of which about $2 million has been raised. Weinman and the other organizers asked the legislature for $5 million this year, but "they decided we weren't quite ready yet." He says they'll go back to Olympia and ask again next year. For now, museum organizers are proceeding with a fundraising campaign, including a public event with special guest, talk show personality Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Thursday, July 19, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m at XN Air, 8125 W. Pilot Drive, at the Spokane Airport Business Park. Tickets are $100; call 325-0701, ext. 41. And next Thursday, July 26, Indian Canyon Golf Course will host a golf tourney and silent auction to benefit the museum. Call 466-2242.

Witness to Wartime: The Painted Diary of Takuichi Fujii @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through May 16
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