Michael Payne, Executive Director of the Port Townsend Aero Museum, shows off some of the antique and historic air planes on display at the museum located at the Jefferson County International Airport in Port Townsend. The museum is expanding, in the area behind the blue tarp in the background, to increase the museum’s display area by about a third. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Michael Payne, Executive Director of the Port Townsend Aero Museum, shows off some of the antique and historic air planes on display at the museum located at the Jefferson County International Airport in Port Townsend. The museum is expanding, in the area behind the blue tarp in the background, to increase the museum’s display area by about a third. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Aero museum expanding by one-third

Historic aircraft on display

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Aero Museum is expanding its display space.

A $1.5 million grant from the North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Museum Foundation has funded an expansion from 13,000 square feet to 19,000 square feet, said Michael Payne, manager of the aircraft museum at 105 Airport Road near Port Townsend.

The expansion is expected to be finished by the end of the summer, Payne said.

The nonprofit museum has some 25 historic airplanes on display.

It has stored some 56 planes that include projects that will be renovated or restored.

Visitors see prewar planes, both tube and fabric.

“They are mostly general aviation aircraft with a few military trainers,” Payne said.

The museum remains open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday while the renovation continues.

A big blue tarp is hanging from the ceiling to separate the viewing area from the ongoing construction, Payne said.

“We had to take some of the existing display out of the building,” during the work, he said.

“Externally, it appears finished. We’re now finishing the interior, which includes the mezzanine.”

The Port Townsend Aero Museum was established in 2001 by Jerry and Peggy Thuotte as a publicly-owned 501(c) (3).

Payne joined the staff in 2002. In 2016, the Thuottes retired and turned over the directorship to Payne.

Jerry died about a year and half ago, Payne said, but Peggy stops by occasionally.

When the North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Museum in Concrete went out of business in 2018, it bequeathed about eight aircraft — in various stages of restoration — to the Port Townsend museum.

“That immediately presented us with a space problem,” Payne said. “We did not have enough space to display the airplanes.”

So the family of the founder of the North Cascades museum, Harold Hanson — who had died in 2010 — offered a grant to expand display space.

Part of the reason for the support is the museum’s youth program, Payne said.

The program serves 17 teens annually, providing mentorship and flight training in exchange for volunteer work.

“We have a waiting list of 15-16 kids,” Payne said.

For more information, see ptareomuseum.com or call 360-379-5244.

________

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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