Horry unlikely to host Air Force One museum

sjones@thesunnews.comFebruary 15, 2014 

WHITEHOUSEMUSEUM.ORG

An attempt to locate an Air Force One Museum in Horry County made its second touchdown in Myrtle Beach recently, but if its reception here is like that it has had in other cities, you probably don't want to buy tickets just yet.

According to various news reports, the museum didn't find the right formula for a home in Las Vegas; Charlotte; Fayetteville, N.C.; Wilmington, N.C., or Chicago before it found its way to the administration committee meeting of the Horry County Council earlier this week. No news reports could be found for its touch-and-gos in Las Vegas, Charlotte, Fayetteville or Chicago, but it apparently shunned Wilmington just as the state's Department of Transportation said it wouldn't donate 35 acres for the museum, but it would sell the land. It is unclear why museum officials opted not to build in Wilmington.

North Carolina's Department of Aviation paid UNC-Wilmington $23,000 to do an economic study on the museum, according to the Star News of Wilmington, and the report glowed with the potential of a significant economic impact.

The idea got a vote of support from the Wilmington City Council, the newspaper reported. The newspaper's story, written in 2009, said the museum had previously been proposed in Myrtle Beach.

Chuck Violette, CEO of the National Air Force One Museum Foundation, offered the same projections to Horry Council's administration committee members, and County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said he was skeptical when he realized that the economic impact depended on the museum's staff of 220 being paid an average of more than $60,000 a year.

Violette couldn't be reached for comment Friday, but Howie Franklin, Brunswick County Airport director identified as a museum board member in the Wilmington reports, said in a telephone message that the museum's organizers seem to have disappeared.

"They were talking about Michigan," Franklin said in the message. "They were talking about Wisconsin."

Franklin couldn't be reached after he left the message.

Violette told Horry County Council members that he wanted their permission to put a sign on 20 acres at the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base that said it was the home of the future Air Force One Museum, which he said he needed to be able to raise the $75 million the museum was to have cost.

The land is owned by the county's Department of Airports. If it were to be sold, the Federal Aviation Administration would have to approve the sale.

Among other things, he said the museum would exhibit the airplane that transported the body of President John F. Kennedy from Dallas, where he was assassinated, to Washington, D.C.

Lazarus said he wasn't surprised Friday to learn that the U.S. Air Force considers that airplane to be the centerpiece of its aircraft exhibit at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

Information on the museum's website said it had spurned an offer from the LBJ Presidential Library to buy the historic airplane.

Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy's vice president, was sworn in as president on the Dulles to Washington flight.

Lazarus said Violette had originally been scheduled to speak to the administration committee two weeks ago, when information he had forwarded to commissioners said he then was looking at land near the new headquarters of Bausch Linnemann on Harrelson Boulevard. But he missed a flight and his appearance was rescheduled for last week, Lazarus said.

Even that wasn't the first time Horry's board had heard of the museum, according to Councilman Gary Loftus.

He wasn't at the administration committee meeting, but upon learning about the museum's pitch, he said, "They've been here before. It was a couple of years ago."

Lazarus said that the museum sounds like a good idea, if organizers can raise the money for it. But the county's unlikely to contribute, he said. And he said it's also unlikely that the county will let the museum put its sign on land it has not yet purchased.

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