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Airmail museum at Smith Field OK’d by House

September 27, 2018

The U.S. House advanced legislation Wednesday that would designate a hangar at Fort Wayne’s Smith Field as the National Airmail Museum.

The House voted 398-23 in favor of a bill that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for five years. The FAA bill contains the Smith Field provision, which had been offered as an amendment by Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd.

“This museum will be a huge asset for Fort Wayne and attract visitors from all over the country who want to learn more about our nation’s aviation history,” Banks said in a statement after the vote.

More sweeping elements of the FAA bill would establish minimum legroom requirements on commercial airliners, impose new airline safety regulations, and require airlines to improve communications with customers on canceled and grounded flights.

The Senate has until Sunday night : the end of the fiscal year : to approve the measure. It also can buy more time by passing a short-term extension of the expiring FAA authorization and voting later on reauthorization.

The provision recognizing Smith Field’s Hangar 2 as the National Airmail Museum is the same as a stand-alone bill introduced this year by Banks and another introduced by Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. Both of those bills and the FAA legislation prohibit the use of federal funds for the project.

Local advocates have been raising money from private sources and expect the airmail museum will cost $2.5 million to plan, develop and equip. The museum would feature aircraft displays, interactive exhibits, photographs, the headquarters for Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 2, a gift shop and a cafe, according to a proposal from the group Friends of Smith Field.

The U.S. Postal Service launched airmail delivery in 1911. Commercial airmail service began at Smith Field in 1930, when the airport was known as Paul Baer Municipal Airport. Baer and Art Smith were celebrated pilots from Fort Wayne who died in plane crashes while delivering mail.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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