AMC Museum’s Festival of Flight gives wings to history


PHOTOS: Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran

DOVER — Vehicles continued arriving steadily at mid-afternoon, carrying passengers of all ages, various nationalities and professional backgrounds.

The Air Mobility Command Museum was open for all to enjoy its 30th anniversary Festival of Flight celebration on Saturday.

While an estimated 3,000 visitors experienced living history with 20 aircraft tours as reenactors told their stories, the AMC staff expected an even better turnout today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We’ll see even more people Sunday because the sun will be out,” AMC Deputy Director Johnny Taylor said.

“They love being able to get on airplanes and be able to touch and feel history. We are one of the few museums in the country offering that experience.”

Dressed in a replica Women’s Air Force Service Pilot uniform used from 1942-44 during World War II, Tricia Upchurch smiled toward everyone entering the AMC’s indoor display area. She’s volunteered with the museum since her C-5 pilot husband was stationed at Dover Air Force Base and has been enthralled ever since.

“History is brought to life here more than reading it from a textbook or being lectured to ever could,” the former social studies teacher said.

Long term, AMC supporters hope to build an education center and partner with school districts to transfer history to the next generation.

Retired Lt. Gen. William Welser III was a special guest, having envisioned the museum’s move to its current location while DAFB Wing Commander three decades ago. Targeted for demolition, the previous World War II era training hangar was instead renovated into a better site for visitors to reach.

“I was driving around the base and saw an abandoned hangar with dead rats inside, holes in the roof and a caved in wall,” he said. “It made Dover look bad. The project began there and continued with the supportive Wing Commanders that followed me.”

Now, the museum sits just outside the secured DAFB walls off Del. 9 at 1301 Heritage Road, easily accessible to visitors during open hours.

Gen. Welser said he especially appreciates all the tour guides because “they tell the story and they do it with enthusiasm. To me the greatest thing is being able to connect with the younger generation and passing along the history of the Air Force and its mission serving our country.”

When serving as Wing Commander, Gen. Walter Kross had the original idea in 1986 to create a museum devoted to preserving the Air Force heritage.

Volunteer Richard Caldwell, a museum educational specialist, said “I never get tired of walking in and looking at the airplanes.

“I’ve always been fascinated with them and as a kid would build any model I could. … One of the nice things here is you meet so many nice people from so many places.”

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