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Warplane Museum planning for growth spurt

Rochester Business Journal
June 14, 2013

This summer will be an important one for the newly renamed National Warplane Museum.
The Geneseo-based non-profit organization, formerly known as the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group, is preparing to put on what will be the area's only air show this summer as it also aims for greater national exposure.
Founded in 1994, the National Warplane Museum is dedicated to restoring, displaying and flying aircraft from the World War II and Korean War eras. The museum, which operates on total annual revenue of about $325,000, also offers programs for U.S. military personnel to recognize them for their service and sacrifice.
With the return of its old name-the organization had been known as the National Warplane Museum until a split with another group, but took back the name last month-officials have plans for a national reputation as well.
The national status will elevate the awareness of the museum's mission to refurbish, preserve and fly vintage military aircraft as well as educate the public about the artifacts, says Austin Wadsworth, president of the National Warplane Museum. As the museum meets these goals, more visitors will be drawn to the region and tourism will increase, Wadsworth adds.
Museum officials want to create connections between the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo and the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
"Our goal is also to draw a greater focus for aviation enthusiasts and grow the volunteer base and supporters," Wadsworth says.
The museum has planned a marketing campaign to go along with the new name, and it held a press event in May that drew local and state elected officials. It also wants to devise a new long-term strategic plan.
"We're taking steps to create a more professional structure," Wadsworth says. "We're talking about hiring new staff, and we've already hired an account and office executive."
These plans will also include a physical expansion.
"We want to create more display areas so we can preserve the artifacts we have," Wadsworth says. "We're actually overflowing with artifacts and looking to start a major capital campaign soon to raise the money for it. Hopefully the name change will help."
To raise the money, the organization is looking for state and federal grants and is doing fundraising with private individuals. A membership drive has raised $120,000, and the organization has $60,000 in reserve for the project, Wadsworth says.
As the National Warplane Museum plans to develop a national reputation, it also has some program expansions in mind. The organization already works on education programs, including the Tuskegee Program, which takes underprivileged children to the air show.
Museum officials want to expand these educational offerings and also forge a closer connection with SUNY College at Geneseo, Wadsworth adds.
This summer brings another opportunity to the museum. Because federal budget cuts forced postponement of the Rochester International Air Show at the airport, Geneseo's show became the only one in the area.
Marketed as "The Greatest Show on Turf," the Geneseo Airshow is July 12-14. The event features a number of warplanes and special acts, including the Liberty Jump Team and Manfred Radius Sailplane.
The Geneseo show has been in operation for more than 30 years and is estimated to bring in more than $1 million to the local economy. With no air show in Rochester this summer, organizers hope they can draw a larger share of the estimated 50,000 people who came to the Rochester show each year.
Lisa Burns, vice president of the Office of Tourism in Livingston County, says the event rivals Letchworth State Park in attracting summer tourists and creates what she calls a "two-week boom" for the local economy as visitors come from across the country to see the planes on display.
"The Geneseo air show is one of the most successful events from the perspective of a tourism influx," Burns says. "It brings in visitors from a wide area because the show is so good and such a good reflection of Americana."
The new name opens up new marketing opportunities as well.
"The fact that we recaptured the National Warplane Museum name, I believe, is a huge benefit, not only for the museum but for the whole community," she says. "We have a strong marketing campaign tied to the 'Greatest Generation,' and with the amazing gallery combined with all the Civilian Conservation Corps stonework in Letchworth Park, it's a really big draw."

6/14/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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