Chuck Yeager in Tulsa for the opening of the new Air and Space Museum

Friday, November 11th 2005, 10:30 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa's bigger, better Air and Space Museum has its grand opening Saturday and what better way to celebrate their sleek, new showpiece than with the pilot who was once the fastest man alive.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says it’s the culmination of ten years of hard work.

Financed entirely with private funds, the Tulsa Air and Space Museum opens its doors Saturday, although they're giving some school kids a sneak preview. Katheryn Pennington with the Air and Space Museum: "It's exciting. It's especially fun to see kids coming through on a field trip here, and this is the first bunch of kids to come through the museum."

Unbeknownst to the youngsters, just a few feet away was a piece of living history. Legendary test pilot and World War II ace Chuck Yeager, the man who broke the sound barrier, was on hand to help raise money for the museum and other charities. He says it's important to teach kids about history. "Yeah, if you don't study history, you'll make the same mistake twice."

Speaking of history, a little bit of trivia. Yeager's good friend and flight engineer on the X1 project to break the sound barrier, was Major Jack Ridley from Garvin, Oklahoma. "Brilliant little guy and a good pilot. He was my classmate in test pilot school, and he flew the X1 after I got it above Mach One. He was a very talented guy."

The museum is 11,000 square feet bigger than the old one and cooler, literally. Katheryn Pennington: "Because we didn't have air-conditioning, we couldn't have traveling exhibits, and a lot of the pieces that have been donated to the museum are in archival storage, and we couldn't bring them out."

Besides being bigger and cooler, they also have the ability to hang exhibits from the ceiling, giving people a better idea of what the planes look like in flight. Chuck Yeager: “They're doing a beautiful job with the facilities, it'd take a while to get all the facilities, hell, you could make wooden airplanes cheaper than you can get an aluminum one."

The real planes are rare and hard to get, but they make the trip worthwhile.