GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It is a museum being built entirely with volunteer effort, and they are getting ready to take off.
The Mississippi Aviation Museum in Gulfport is making huge strides towards their scheduled opening date of October 1 with the help of people like sailors from the USS Tripoli, which is being built at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula.
Tuesday, they helped maneuver two of the airplanes that will be part of the exhibit inside a former furniture store on Pass Road.
Petty Officer Thomas Brickner was one of the members of the ship’s pre-commission unit helping to get the Cessna 310 and a Cessna 175 moved inside.
“We’ve been doing this for several months,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words. I’ve been coming here donating my time along with many other sailors since almost the beginning, and to see where this space has come in that period of time is astounding."
"And it’s all with community help,” he added with pride.
Local filmmaker Francisco Gonzalez is heading the effort to get the museum opened on behalf of the John C. Robinson Brown Condor Association, and he couldn’t thank his volunteers enough.
“We have local artists, famous local artist, donating their time to paint our walls with aviation theme," he said. "We have people from all walks of lives donating,” including a 100-year-old who walked in one day to donate his parachute.
The museum will be filled with STEM-interactive exhibits for children that include 14 touch tables that will teach aviation, a flight simulator, live mechanics working on and renovating airplanes and a theater that looks like the interior of an airliner. The museum will also appeal to adults interested in aviation history, Gonzalez said.
“The Mississippi Gulf Coast is going to have a beautiful place,” he said.
The final phase of the museum’s vision is to turn the roof of the building into an observation deck to watch the activity at Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport, which is only a quarter mile to the north.
Gonzales, himself a pilot, lights up like a child when he thinks about the museum’s potential.
“It’s going to be fun. I’m just looking forward to seeing their faces," he said.