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21Country: Fort Wayne Aviation Museum hopes to soar to greater heights

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - In the early 1900’s, Fort Wayne was home to several aviation pioneers: Art Smith, Paul Baer, & Margaret Ringenberg.

Before the Fort Wayne International Airport was what it is today, it was a World War II military base.

For the last several decades, the Fort Wayne Aviation Museum displayed artifacts and the history behind those topics, and many others.

“The museum was started in 1984 by local air aficionados,” president Greg Bosk told us. “They collected memorabilia, historical facts, and we built a museum on the 2nd floor. For at least 10-15 years it was well-received.”

But after 9/11, with the TSA and bolstered security at the airport, the museum wasn’t as accessible to the public.

Bosk said it was also inconvenient — guests had to have a plane ticket, or make arrangements two weeks in advance to get clearance.

He also said as times changed, younger visitors weren’t impressed.

“We had a lot of things displayed — not much depth, not much knowledge, but a lot of items to look at,” he explained. “We’re trying to go from that old look of items sitting on the shelf to a very digital look that would appeal to the kids and schools, through their phones and their tablets.”

As it is now, the current museum is just a dozen or so items in a display case in the lobby of the airport.

Items it previously kept were given to the History Center.

Anything related to the military was donated to the Veterans’ National Memorial Shrine and Museum.

A lot of magazines, newspapers, and military publications are currently being digitized by the Fort Wayne Aviation Museum, and shared on their Facebook page.

Bosk plans to make the new museum, which will be installed in the section of the airport near the TSA, an interactive learning destination for teachers and students.

“We’re also going to incorporate something called augmented reality,” he shared. “With the augmented reality, you’ll be able to be on your iPhone, on your iPad, or on your Android — actually get into Art Smith’s airplane… and you’ll be able to pilot it through Waynedale on a mail run.”

“You’ll be able to sit beside Margaret Ringenberg, a famous lady aviator from the Fort Wayne area,” he continued, “listen to her talk and walk through her flights.”

Bosk said a third augmented reality resource, will put visitors into the old control tower once overlooking Baer Field.

“The technology that we’re writing will last for years,” he said. “It will allow us to update immediately over the internet, instead of taking things apart. New knowledge comes across to us all the time.”

In addition to the new museum inside the airport, Fort Wayne’s aviation history will be completely mapped on its website, which is currently under development.

“When I talk to school teachers, when I look at my grandson with his iPad in Kindergarten learning and things like that… that’s where it’s at!” Bosk added. “I got to get to that level on the iPad in the school system, so that teachers can easily access the Fort Wayne Aviation Museum website.”

But the grand plan to preserve the aviation legacy written in 21Country, doesn’t come free.

Bosk says the museum needs $150,000 to finish the software and complete the museum at the same time renovations are finished at the airport.

“I need someone to take the first big step,” he urged. “Someone needs to be a pioneer like Baer and Smith here, someone needs to be my pioneer so we can get this.”

In addition to money, Bosk is also concerned about crucial documents being discarded, as family members who had close ties to Baer Field pass away.

“It’s very important to gather this knowledge now, before it becomes we can’t find it, or don’t even know about it,” he said. “Those things I can’t find, I can’t replace.”

Thankfully, he has four years of a publication called The Beacon that illustrates life on the military base for the 100,000 people that were in and out every day.

“There’s so many little facts that people go ‘How’d they do that?’” Bosk told us. “We have that knowledge and we’re building it everyday, but we have to build it digitally so it will be there for generations to come.”

If you’re interested in donating money or items to Bosk’s collection, you can contact him via his email: fwaair@gmail.com.

Author Profile Photo

Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out: dbeals@wpta21.com.

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