GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - A Gulf Coast aviation museum is closer to becoming reality as volunteers work hard to help the project take flight.
They were busy Saturday morning spray painting light fixtures, cutting slatwall panels and painting walls to transform a former furniture store on Pass Road in Gulfport into the home for the Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum.
It's a project backed by the John C. Robinson Brown Condor Association.
“We’re building the Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum to honor Mississippi aviators from the Delta to the Gulf Coast, and from the Alabama line to the Mississippi River. Everybody that was involved in aviation from the 1900s on, we’re trying to honor," said Francisco Gonzalez, project coordinator.
Gonzalez said the museum will feature interactive exhibits, a heroes gallery, flight simulator and more. They hope to have it all ready to go in just four months. It is a challenge that he said will be impossible without the community’s help.
“We don’t have enough cash in the bank, but guess what we have? A volunteer force. And we have some people in our community who are going to see what we’re doing and they’re going to say this is worth it," Gonzalez said.
Many of Saturday's volunteers were from Keesler Air Force Base. It's a fitting project.
“Since we’re in the Air Force, it’s all aviation. So we take pride in doing aviation volunteer events," said Casey Dwyer, who is with the non-commissioned officer academy at Keesler.
Along with the help of volunteers, it will also take monetary donations and donations of aviation artifacts to make this museum a success.
“I have people walk through that door in their 90s and 80s, donating stuff, giving me stuff, saying ‘hey, can you use this? Can you use that?’ Yes, we will use that," Gonzalez said.
After 14 years of working to make the museum a reality, Gonzalez said he’s excited to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“People are going to come from all walks of life, and they’re going to walk into this museum, and they’re going to be learning about all the history of aviation in Mississippi. Tremendous. Beautiful,” he said.
The museum is slated to open by late October. Once the initial phases are done, work will begin to expand the museum to include a observation deck and restaurant. Gonzalez said that phase of the project could take up to six years before its completed.
To donate to the aviation museum, visit the Brown Condor Association website.
Donations can also be mailed to P.O. Box 7914, Gulfport, MS 39506.
For more information on volunteering, contact Gonzalez at 601-299-2816.