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Kansas Aviation Museum opens restoration center

The Kansas Aviation Museum dedicated its new Aircraft Restoration Center Thursday with an open house, food and music by the Honky Tonk Devils.

Spirit AeroSystems donated 15 acres and four buildings to the museum in February. Since then, staff and volunteers have rehabilitated three of the four buildings to use as the restoration center.

That gives volunteers more room for restoration projects and frees up space inside the museum, officials said.

One of the projects is the restoration of an all-wood Watkins Skylark SL, one of only two Skylarks completed by Watkins Aircraft. The company operated in Wichita in 1929 and 1930.

Watkins, which was located at 2300 E. Douglas near East High School, quit building airplanes during the Depression.

The deteriorated Skylark was found inside a barn on a farm west of Wichita.

“It’s a very rare aircraft,” said museum volunteer Terry Dobson at the open house.

Volunteers, working without plans or drawings, are reverse engineering the aircraft, using the deteriorated wood as patterns. The steel and aluminum parts have been salvaged.

About 12 volunteers have been working on the project for about three years, Dobson said. He figures it will take another two years of work.