Port Townsend: Aviation museum just months away following $200,000 donation from Oregon charity

PORT TOWNSEND — Ground-breaking on a 17,000-square-foot airplane museum could be just three months away thanks to a large grant from an Oregon charity.

The Port Townsend Aero Museum received $200,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, museum director Jerry Thuotte announced.

That brings the museum’s bank account to more than $900,000 — enough to begin applying for building permits.

Thuotte expects early construction on the east side of Jefferson County International Airport to start in about 90 days.

The ground-breaking is long-awaited — and at times may have seemed an impossible dream.

“Fund-raising has been tough,” Thuotte said.

“I thought all the government agencies from the Port (of Port Townsend) up would say, ‘Here’s a wonderful program, we’re going to give them some money.”‘

But it didn’t exactly work that way.

9/11 idles fund-raising

Money collecting began July 10, 2001.

Two months later, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks brought fund-raising efforts for the nonprofit group to a standstill.

While government agencies haven’t rushed out to give the Aero Museum money, Thuotte did express appreciation to the Port of Port Townsend during a short ceremony at airport Hanger G earlier this week.

Port Director Larry Crockett, Facilities Manager Jim Pivarnik and Commissioner Bob Sokol were in attendance.

“This is going to be the flagship building at the airport,” Pivarnik said.

Aside from the museum, Thuotte, a United Airlines pilot for 30 years, teaches youth how to restore classic aircraft.

He said he particularly aims to work with teenagers who are at risk of forming drug habits.

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