- Associated Press - Saturday, May 9, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - The Prairie Aviation Museum embraces all forms of aviation - from military to outer space and everything in between - in its recently refurbished space on Illinois 9 near the old airport.

“We didn’t want to be all military,” said Barbara Edwards, a museum board member and one of 25 volunteers who operate the museum. “We’re trying to focus on everything in aviation.”

While the museum was closed during the month of February, volunteers took the opportunity to freshen up the space with a new coat of light blue paint and the addition of wall display space, and to introduce some new ideas.

The lobby entrance now displays a plaque with the mission of the 31-year-old museum: “to educate, inspire and entertain through collecting, preserving and displaying aircraft, artifacts and memorabilia about aviation and space.”

The new displays clearly accomplish that mission.

One marks this year’s 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 space mission. Besides pictures of the crew, a Life magazine that focused on the mission and other memorabilia, the display case includes a roll of duct tape.

Edwards said the Apollo 13 crew used duct tape to make something square become round. “They take it on all the missions, now,” she said. “Duct tape, don’t leave earth without it,” she joked.

There’s also a display of the museum’s history - from the Ozark Airlines airplane to its now large variety of display aircraft, including a Huey helicopter, an F-100C, an F-4N Phantom II and a recently restored Cessna.

One of Edwards’ favorite new features includes a small portion of hundreds of model airplanes donated to the museum. The planes, built by a Chicago man, are replicas of ones manufactured throughout the world. Edwards said Prairie Aviation Museum Board President Steve Schmidt is repairing all the planes and they will be rotated about every six months.

The museum also captures things closer to home: pictures of the Twin Cities’ first airport north of Normal on U.S. 51; a memorial to Charlie Wells, an aviation acrobat who crashed and died at the 1993 Prairie Air Show in Bloomington; and a display that includes items donated by Ryan Chamberlain, a graduate of Central Catholic High School and now a member of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight squadron team.

Other new displays include: one on women in aviation; a brief history of Boeing 700 airplanes; seaplanes; air racing from its inception in 1919 to today; the history of the Stealth airplane; and one on helicopters that includes models made by museum member Mike Sallee.

Mixed among the new displays are the popular and valuable museum standbys including “The Link Trainer,” the first true flight simulator designed by Edwin Link in the 1930s and a Wright R3350 aircraft engine.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, https://bit.ly/1OyhPOZ

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Information from: The Pantagraph, https://www.pantagraph.com

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