Living Pacific Aviation History
Wednesday - January 14, 2009
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By Kenneth DeHoff
Executive Director for Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor
So often I am told I have the best job in the Islands. Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor is a wonderful place to work if one loves airplanes, aviation and history. And I do. I feel this way every day. It’s an honor.
The museum is such a special place for me, personally. I grew up in Phoenix and Salt Lake City. National memorials surround the museum that serves these areas.
My parents set the aviation stage for me early. On Dec. 7, 1941, my father was in the Arizona National Guard. He went on to fly the B-25 and C-47/DC-3 Skytrain, and my mother was a stewardess on American Airlines DC-3s. She went on to be a librarian and museum director.
I flew the Bell AH1G Cobra Attack helicopter in Vietnam. Ever since childhood, I have been fascinated with flight and with flying.
At Pacific Aviation Museum, our mission is to develop an internationally recognized aviation museum on historic Ford Island that educates young and old alike, while honoring aviators and their support personnel who defended freedom in the Pacific Region.
Daily we have visitors to the museum who come to see, hear and feel the stories of Dec. 7, 1941. We have volunteers who weave in their experiences, their stories of flying and their personal histories, such as Chip Gunther, who flew a Wildcat aircraft like the one we display.
Many of our visitors tell us stories about what they did during the war or what their parents did for the war effort. And we have had more than 220,000 visitors since we opened Dec. 7. 2006.
Even with the downturn in Hawaii tourism during these past six months, we have hosted more than 116,000 visitors this year alone. And volunteer Bob Naylor is here, manning the video equipment, recording the stories of veterans who visit so they will be with us forever.
This year we opened up Hangar 79 for the dedication of the Lt. Ted Shealy Restoration Shop, where our restoration director/acting curator Syd Jones has a team of staff and volunteers working on the L-5 Jungle Angel aircraft that was on Ford Island in the 1940s. Visitors get to help by “bucking a rivet” in our “Rosie the Riveter” exhibit.
This historic 86,000-square-foot hangar is our next Phase 3 development project, where the rest of the aviation story of World War II in the Pacific will be told. It holds the famous F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, UH1 Huey, AH1G Cobra and Sea King helicopters.
Our education program reaches out to every school and grade. Education director KT Budde-Jones visits schools and hosts teacher conferences at the museum, showing how WWII aviation has impacted every aspect of our lives, from math and science to social studies. School groups come for the day, and Boy and Girl Scouts earn their Aviation Merit Badge in our “Saturday is for Scouts” programs.
None of this would happen without the dreams of the museum’s board of directors, the teamwork of the dedicated museum staff and the contributions of the volunteers and donors.
When I ask visitors what they like about the museum, they tell me what I feel myself: It’s a place that preserves history, a place that asks me to ask what I can do to help. It’s a place that makes me proud to be American and honored to be here.
It is the best job in the Islands.
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