Kansas City is home to the National Airline History Museum, which contains rare, fully restored versions of early propeller-driven passenger planes, but it’s shut down, and its future is uncertain.
The private museum occupies Hangar 9 at Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. It was founded in 1986 by Larry Brown and Dick McMahon, who pulled together a group of TWA employees interested in preserving some of Kansas City’s aviation history.
The first aircraft they acquired was a Lockheed L-1049 Constellation they found in Arizona. They spent nine weeks restoring it to flying condition. On July 15, 1986, the aircraft was flown from Maricopa County to the Downtown Airport.
Former TWA pilots, flight engineers, mechanics and hostesses spent the next 18 months scrounging parts to finish fully restoring the aircraft and save its history for future generations.
Today, that Constellation still is considered the best example of its kind in the world. It appeared in scenes for the movie “The Aviator,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes.
But now the Constellation and all the other rare aircraft at the museum are in danger.
The situation started Sept. 9, 2019, when Kansas City amended its lease with Signature Flight Support for management of the Downtown Airport. The amendment deleted all financial benefits for the National Airline History Museum, essentially meaning the city would start charging Signature rent for the museum’s space beginning in December 2019. Signature notified the museum that it would need to pay $3,256 a month in rent.