HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The harsh Utah weather can wreak havoc on old Air Force aircraft at Hill Aerospace Museum.

Several planes sit outside on display at the museum in the freezing cold and under the sweltering sun. The museum has just not had the capacity to give all these planes shelter.

But in approximately six months, these planes will finally get some relief.

Officials here Friday broke ground on a massive expansion of the Lindquist Stewart Fighter Gallery building. Once built, as many as 13 planes will be moved indoors.

"Getting aircraft in from the outside, painted and covered significantly extends the life of these airplanes," said retired Lt. Gen. Marc Reynolds, chairman of the Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah's board of directors.

The 28,000-square-foot addition will also house two new major exhibits: "The History of Aerial Reconnaissance" and "The Korean War." Eventually, museum officials hope to create several new ordnance and armament displays.

The Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah solicited donations for the $1 million project. The group is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide capital support for the museum for facility improvement and expansion.

"Raising that kind of money is not easily achieved, and we are very fortunate to have an association that is as engaged as the one we have," said Col. Sharon Dunbar, commander of the 75th Air Base Wing. "They mobilized the effort to raise the money."

"We thank the people of Utah for their support," museum director Leslie Peterson added. "We couldn't have done it without them."

Construction on the new addition is scheduled for completion in about six months, said Capt. Rob Goza, spokesman for Hill.

The museum is home to about 65 aircraft, with some built as early as 1911. Admission is free. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com