May 11, 2005
A plan to reopen the former Champlin Fighter Aircraft Museum at Falcon Field Airport in Mesa has been called off because of an inability to secure private funding.
The Museum of Flight in Seattle, which in 2000 purchased most of the former museum’s World War I and World War II fighter planes, could not raise the $2 million necessary to reopen the facility that closed two years ago.
"At the end of the day, I could no longer justify to my board continued expenditure of Seattle-generated resources to prolong this effort," Ralph Bufano, president and CEO of the Museum of Flight, said in a prepared statement released Tuesday.
The Museum of Flight board of trustees made the final decision last month after spending about $350,000 on the project. The $2 million was required to renovate hangars, acquire and transport display aircraft and develop new exhibits and educational programming.
Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker said he had met with museum executives and supported the plans to reopen the museum northeast of McKellips and Greenfield roads as long as private funds were used.
"It would have been a class act if they had raised the money and got it started down here," Hawker said.
Mesa Councilman Rex Griswold said there has been a lot of interest in the Falcon Field area from aviation companies that could now utilize the two big hangars held by the museum.
Griswold said he supported the plans to reopen the museum, but said the latest news "could be a good thing." The city owns the former Champlin site and has been leasing it to the Seattle organization.
The Museum of Flight occupies more than 300,000 square feet on 12 acres in Seattle. Most of the Champlin aircraft purchased by the museum have been moved to the new $53.5 million, 88,000-square-foot J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing that opened in June.
Griswold said the plan was for the Museum of Flight to open a satellite museum in Mesa that would feature fighter jets from the Korean War and Vietnam eras.
The Museum of Flight plans to vacate the former Champlin hangars "as soon as practical," the company said.