Progress in creating a fighter aircraft museum near the Scottsdale Airport has hit a snag, throwing the future of the museum in jeopardy if the two organizations raising funds for the project can’t agree on what to do with the money.
Gen. Don Owens, executive director of the proposed museum, told members of the Airport Advisory Commission on Wednesday night that unless the groups work out their differences by December, when the lease is up on the land, and come up with a funding proposal the fate of the museum is at risk.
"We have run into a fundraising problem," Owens said. "We are about where we were last April."
Owens said the Arizona Aerospace Foundation and International Fighter Pilot’s Museum were raising funds for the museum. So far, the two organizations have collected about $2 million of the $6 million needed to construct a 100,000-square-foot building and acquire aircraft and memorabilia.
The International Fighter Pilot’s Museum, planned for the southeast corner of Thunderbird and Redfield roads, would feature about 25 historic aircraft, profiles of Valley fighter aces and a detailed exhibit of Thunderbird II, the Army Air Corps training base that evolved into the city’s airport.
"This would be a great addition to our community," Mayor Mary Manross said. "An aircraft museum of this caliber will be a great educational opportunity for both residents and visitors, plus a fine tribute to Arizona’s aerospace heritage."
The proposed museum already has landed a P-47 Thunderbolt, used during World War II for ground support and aerial combat. It was equipped with machine guns and could carry about 5,000 pounds of bombs and rockets.
The aircraft collection would rotate regularly, Owens said, with new aircraft exhibits added as frequently as every one to two years.
Owens said Scottsdale was chosen for the museum because of the city’s history with the World War II training base.
"There is a lot of history here. More than 140,000 pilots were trained here during World War II," he said. "This will be a special place in Scottsdale."
The museum, which will also offer student curriculum and corporate training opportunities, is expected to attract more than 200,000 visitors annually.