By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 9, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Nearly 100,000 visitors walk through the doors of the U.S. Army Aviation Museum annually to get a glimpse at the history of Army Aviation.
But as much as patrons are able to see what the history of Army Aviation holds, there is just that much more that they aren't able to gaze upon due to space limitations.
"Currently, in the existing museum, we are limited by space, so we have to have displayed what was actually in the Army's operational inventory," said Bob Mitchell, U.S. Army Aviation Museum curator. "When grandpa brings his kids and grandkids in here to show them the helicopter he flew, we have to have it in here, which means that there is a lot of stuff that we have that we can't really put [on display]."
Currently there are about five storage facilities that house a slew of prototype aircraft and equipment, as well as many aircraft that are slated for restoration in the future to be exhibited on the museum floor, and although the current museum has about 120,000 square feet of floor space, it's not enough to be able to display everything that is housed in the museum's storage units, said Mitchell.
Most recently the museum added the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche helicopter, an aircraft that never quite made it into the Army's operational inventory. Although the Comanche is currently the museum's biggest draw, the display is only temporary until it's able to replace it with and AH-64 Apache, which according to Mitchell is still in the process of being assembled.
In addition to the Comanche, there are about 50 aircraft on display in the public galleries at any one time, but the museum maintains a collection of over 160 airplanes, helicopters and other vertical flight aircraft, according to the museum's website, www.armyaviationmuseum.org.
"Fort Rucker's museum is the showcase for Army Aviation," Mitchell said. "When non-military personnel and veterans come to Fort Rucker, they generally come to see the museum. It's basically Army Aviation's house, so we want to make sure the visitors have a pleasurable visit, (and that) they understand the mission of Army Aviation and its rich heritage.
"Most people who interact with Fort Rucker and the museum will walk away with the opinion of the Army based on the museum," he added. "It is very important we conduct ourselves in a professional manner, the exhibits are correct and people leave here understanding Army Aviation."
The museum is currently working to place its displays in chronological order to provide visitors a visual walk through of the history of Army Aviation.
"They can expect to find examples of Army Aviation dating from the Wright Brothers' production of the Army Wright Model B flyer through World War I and World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam War and the global war on terrorism," Mitchell said. "It is important to understand that the United States Army is the reason for the modern-day helicopter. The Army paid the money, and conducted research and development to get the helicopter where it is today.
"We have a little bit of everything in here," he added. "We have an original Newport 28 from World War I. There are only a handful of those that survived. We also have a Super 68 from the Battle of Mogadishu, as seen in the movie 'Black Hawk Down,' and pretty much a sampling of everything in between."
The museum is open to visit Mondays-Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed on federal holidays, except for Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.
For more information about the museum, visit http://www.armyaviationmuseum.org.