BISMARCK, N.D. –A nonprofit group wants to move and convert a 78-year-old building on the Bismarck Airport grounds into an aviation museum. The Bismarck Air Museum Foundation was incorporated nearly three years ago to save Hangar No. 5 for historical purposes.
Hangar No. 5’s future will be part of an environmental presentation and open house for a proposed apron expansion project held 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Bismarck Airport Terminal. The Bismarck Aero Center, which uses the hangar as its headquarters, would build new facilities elsewhere on the airport grounds and the older building could be moved to make way for the larger apron, where aircraft are parked, unloaded or loaded, refueled or boarded. No decisions have been made about the future of the 16,000-square-foot hangar. If apron plans move forward, the airport may take offers on the hangar for its historical reuse.
The group wants to move the building or its usable parts about one-eighth mile away to the northwest, if accepted by the Federal Aviation Administration and city airport officials.
“Our goal is to lift it over to Airport Road and University. Our goal is to recreate it,” said Robert Roswick, president of the foundation, adding that it is being studied how much of the building can be used.
A museum would have to be enclosed, heated and insulated for the public, but maintain the character of the hangar, he said.
“There’s the historic aspect of the building. It’s one of the few left in the United States that was built in the 1930s. It’s a shame to let it go with its potential to house the local aviation history,” said Bob Simmers, vice president of the group, adding that the construction of the building by Works Progress Administration workers could also be incorporated into its history since it provided employment and strengthened local economies during the Great Depression era.
“I would say it could feature a lot of pre- and post-World War II aviation items,” he said. “It would be not only a museum for aviation history, but also an educational tool. It could have military exhibits. We could swap aviation exhibits with other aviation exhibits around the state.”
Simmers also sees potential for hosting aviation events such as the barnstormers who brought their early 1900s through 1930s single-engine planes to ride and exhibit. The same hangar also kept B-17s on display in 2013, he said. Adapted, it could host wedding receptions and other public events for people who like the aviation theme.
It could also house the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame, which features people who have contributed to the progress of aviation in the state, according to Roswick.
“Our group is all about aviation. We love it. There is nothing like it,” said Roswick, adding he would like to preserve local and other aviation facilities in Minot and Fargo.
“It’s about anything we can do to kindle interest in aviation,” he said. Roswick said the plans are still in its early stages and costs for an air museum are unknown at this point.
It may take five years to firm up plans and finance the project, according to Roswick, and longer to see its completion. He said there may be funding options through the Federal Aviation Administration, the State Heritage Foundation, private corporations and donations.