Niagara Gazette — When most people think about aviation and aerospace history, they are likely to think of the Wright Brothers in Ohio or the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Western New York, however, might not come to mind right away.
It should though. The Buffalo-Niagara region was once considered a hub of development and manufacturing of such equipment. The Niagara Aerospace Museum been sharing that history for decades.
“The Niagara Aerospace Museum has over 100 years of Western New York history,” said Paul Faltyn, the museum’s curator. Most of the specimens inside the museum focus on the innovations of Bell Aircraft and Curtiss-Wright Corporations, both having been founded locally.
Some of the most notable pieces include early Bell helicopters, including what Faltyn referred to as the earliest commercial helicopters as well as a Bell P-39 Airacobra discovered in Russia in 2004. There is also memorabilia from the Mach 1 flight.
“That was the first jet to go Mach 1 and break the sound barrier,” explained Faltyn. “It was flown by a pilot named Chuck Yeager.”
There are also original examples of Curtiss Pusher, Jenny and Hawk models on display. They even have a kids’ area where children can play with model planes.
“ I’m impressed with everything here,” said Susan Smith who was visiting with her grandson Mason Smith. “We’re always looking for places in the winter we can bring a 2-year old, they’ve got everything, large scale models, a little movie and toys for kids.”
Mason was thoroughly enjoyed the museum. His grandfather, Colin Smith, stopped at an exhibit featuring the P-39 plane being worked on by a “Rosie the Riveter” mannequin. Mason curiously picked up tools from Rosie’s toolbox and his grandfather explained what each one was.
The Smiths agree that the museum is worth the stop and has a lot of knowledge to offer, making it a great place for kids. Colin added that Western New York’s significant flight history was worth checking out.
There are hands-on display panels with touch screens that provide information about important people in the museum’s history as well as small gift and book shops.
Having recently returned to Niagara Falls after spending some time in Buffalo, the museum has taken over the old terminal at the Niagara Falls International Airport. This past summer the museum was remolded.
“We did the construction in March and April and spent May and June setting it up,” said Faltyn. “We had it ready to open back up by the July. 1.”
With renovations done and the museum open for business, Faltyn says that next they will be looking into acquiring more display cases to broaden their collection. He also says he would like to encourage using the museum is a field trip destination.
“We want to get youth involved,” he said. “Here they can learn about science, space, history and aviation.”
The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and is closed on Mondays and Tuesday.IF YOU GO WHAT: The Niagara Aerospace Museum WHERE: 9900 Porter Road, Niagara Falls International Airport, Niagara Falls WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesdays. MORE INFORMATION: Call 297-1323 or visit www.wnyaerospace.org. Members are free. Adults, $8; seniors $6; active military members, $4; students w/ID, $4. Children ages 5-15, $3. Group tours available by appointment