ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. (4/30/09) – From the World War II-era B-29 Superfortress to the super-sleek B-1B Lancer bomber, the South Dakota Air & Space Museum offers a chance to get an up-close look aircraft of yesterday and today.
The museum, which is east of Rapid City just outside Ellsworth Air Force Base, also offers a living lesson in aviation history. Numerous exhibits are housed inside the museum and airpark, including 25 aircraft ranging from World War II Bombers to the current B-1, four different missiles, including a Minuteman II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. It’s also home to the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame.
“We’re the largest air museum in this part of the Midwest,” states Tech. Sgt. Steven D. Wilson of nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base.
Wilson said the B-29 Superfortress and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's personal transport plane, a modified B-25 bomber, are the most popular exhibits in the museum.
Recently added displays include an exhibit on the War on Terror, unveiled Sept. 11 of this past year, and an exhibit on the Berlin Airlift, the Allied effort to support West Berlin in the early years of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. That display was added in October.
Other showcases include a Missile Procedures Trainer Exhibit, an F-106 interactive aircraft cockpit and a B-1B cockpit and offensive/defensive system operators’ simulator. Participants in the summer bus tours will also be able to catch a close view of the massive Pride Hangar, once one of the largest monolithic structures in the country. The giant hangar is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The museum,” according to Wilson, “was created to promote education of America's air power and South Dakota’s heritage regarding air and space.”
The museum is planning a number of restoration projects. Workers are restoring a Titan I Missile, which resided in underground silos on the prairies east of the Ellsworth Air Force Base in the 1960s. They are also restoring a Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, a jet formerly used by the South Dakota Air National Guard.
The South Dakota Air and Space Museum, next to Ellsworth Air Force Base, is located off of Exit 67B on Interstate 90. The museum and airpark are open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during winter and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer. The museum is funded through public donations. Admission is free to the public.
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