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Wichita’s Exploration Place planning new aviation exhibit

Exploration Place Board of Trustees member Jason Beckmann looks over the fuselage of a Hawker 4000 that will be on exhibit in the museum’s renovated aviation exhibit called “Design, Build, Fly.” (Feb. 18, 2015)
Exploration Place Board of Trustees member Jason Beckmann looks over the fuselage of a Hawker 4000 that will be on exhibit in the museum’s renovated aviation exhibit called “Design, Build, Fly.” (Feb. 18, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

The new aviation exhibit at Exploration Place won’t open for another 18 months, but when it does, it is expected to be Wichita’s pride and joy.

It will be hands on, interactive. And it will proclaim why Wichita is known as the Air Capital of the World.

The 5,000-square-foot exhibit will be called “Design, Build, Fly” and is expected to cost $2 million. It will include a Cessna Aircraft business jet mockup, a Hawker 4000 business jet fuselage and a Hawker 800XP business jet nose and cockpit section, Michael Thacker, a senior vice president at Textron Aviation, said during a news conference Wednesday.

“The exhibit will offer exclusive opportunities for local families as well as out-of-town visitors of all ages to climb aboard some of our products to experience some of our 80-plus-year heritage,” Thacker said.

“Textron Aviation’s hope is that the exhibit … will connect, educate and inspire … the many facets of Wichita aviation.”

When Exploration Place opened in 2000 at 300 N. McLean Blvd., it had an aviation exhibit, but what it may have lacked, museum officials said, was a factory immersion feeling.

“When we started talking about creating a new aviation exhibit for the museum, the word ‘community’ kept coming in,” said Jan Luth, president of Exploration Place. “It was key. This is an aviation community.

“We wanted to create an exhibit as a community project and ensure that the final product really served the community and was meeting the needs of the aviation industry.”

The new exhibit uses the national standards in teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It will give visitors a feel of walking into an aviation manufacturing plant.

Exhibit items include a deconstructed business jet, a fuselage theater, a wind wall, a fly lab and a Bombardier Learjet Model 45 flight test vehicle.

Students from the National Center for Aviation Training, where Wednesday’s news conference was held, will help construct the exhibit.

“It will educate our future employees, getting young people excited and interested in studying science, technology, engineering and math,” Thacker said. “It will inspire our community to continue to embrace our position as Air Capital of the World.”

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

Major donors

The following have made major donations for the “Design, Build, Fly” exhibit at Exploration Place: Textron Aviation; Spirit AeroSystems Inc.; the Boeing Co.; Signature Flight Support; Airbus Americas Engineering Inc.; Bombardier Learjet; Beechcraft Corp.; Cessna Aircraft Co.; Peterson, Peterson & Goss; and Wichita Area Technical College.

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