Do you have a kid who is obsessed with flying? Are you a little bit obsessed too? It’s not hard in the state that was first in flight with the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk. For those enthusiasts, and many more, Carolinas Aviation Museum is set to reopen next year with a full redesign and additional space to house many more aircraft. An outdoor plaza will serve as a viewing platform to watch planes taxi, take off, and land. It can also be used as an outdoor classroom for STEM programs and will also be the home for some historic aircraft.

The Carolinas Aviation Museum has been part of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport for 29 years. The old facility was closed to make way for this $30 million upgraded facility which is a partnership between the City of Charlotte, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, national architecture and engineering firm Progressive AE, and internationally renowned design firm Freeman Ryan Design. The state of the art new location is expected to be completed in phases with the first phase to be completed in late 2023.

Construction on the museum is set to start at the end of September, 2022. A ceremony with local and state officials will kick off the project with the big machinery to come after. The project will completely upgrade an existing hangar right next to the runways at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The historic hangar will get a full renovation. A new much larger hangar will be the main gallery. In addition there will be a new visitors center and plaza along the west side. 

All total, there will be 105,000 square feet of exhibition space. Perfect to house many different makes and models of aircraft and the center of the collection, the plane that Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger historically landed on the Hudson River saving all passengers aboard the flight. That flight was US Airways flight 1549, a New York-to-Charlotte flight which had its historic landing in 2009. The new museum will be named in Sully’s honor with the “miracle on the Hudson” plane in the place of honor.

The new exhibits for the museum should include education programs, flight simulators, and interactive exhibits. Museum officials expect to attract more than 15,000 students to the STEM programs and the career development labs. This will include field trips, and classes, as well as individual visitors. This “living laboratory” is being developed by UNC Charlotte and Charlotte Aviation Innovation and Research Institute. The museum and especially the STEM classrooms are expected to help with workforce development and research for careers in STEM, aerospace, and aviation.

Funding for this project has been a mixture of public and private money. Public sources include $10 million from state funds from the 2022-2023 budget, $3 million from Mecklenburg County, and $5 million from a matching grant from Charlotte Douglas International Airport and the city of Charlotte’s non-taxpayer fund.

The largest contributors from the private donors include $1.5 from Honeywell, $1 million from Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias (who was on the miracle flight), and $500,000 from Lonely Planet.