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American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport preps for 2 reopenings

The American Airpower Museum will reopen its doors on Aug. 1 after being shut down for several months due to COVID-19.  Credit: Newsday / John Conrad Williams Jr.

Vintage aircraft are getting repolished and some will take to the skies as the American Airpower Museum in East Farmingdale prepares to reopen to visitors for the first time since March.

The museum at Republic Airport celebrated its 20th anniversary on May 24 without visitors, and will have a soft reopening Saturday, said Lawrence Starr, the museum's manager. Special events are planned to celebrate the official grand reopening Aug. 1.

Depending on the weather and pilot availability, aircraft such as a North American T-6 Texan, a Waco biplane, an Aero L-39 Albatross jet trainer and a Grumman Avenger — similar to the plane flown by former President George H.W. Bush in World War II — will take flight. Jacky Clyman, the museum’s executive vice president, said the public has inquired about its reopening.

“We’re looking forward to opening and starting to have semi-normal functions,” Clyman said.

Admission will be $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and veterans and $8 for children. The museum will open from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday to Sunday until Labor Day. Afterward, it will operate the same days but the hours will be from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Visitors will be capped at 55 people daily, or 150 if special events are held outdoors. Everyone is required to wear face masks and have their temperatures taken at the entrance. Inside, markers will be on the floor so guests can maintain social distancing. The children’s cockpit will be off limits, but a flight simulator may be open under revised provisions.   

The museum is a 501c3 nonprofit, and since its closing, Starr said he has periodically checked on the building and the aircraft. He added that lately mechanics have come in to do annual inspections on the planes. They would normally be completed by May in preparation for airshows in the spring and summer, but those events were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Clyman and Starr said the museum has taken a financial hit during the pandemic, as it relies on renting the building for private events such as weddings and entertainment shoots, but it still plans to limit use of the building for rentals such as film and television shoots. Last year, the Amazon Prime series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was filmed there. 

Earlier this month, museums and cultural institutions on Long Island received the go-ahead to resume operations as part of Phase 4 of the state’s economic reopening plan.   

The museum relies on between 50 and 60 volunteers who are tour guides and museum support personnel tasked with maintaining the aircraft, motor vehicles, exhibits and the hangar that houses the museum, Starr said. Some are Vietnam and Cold War-era veterans, former and current commercial airline pilots and retired defense industry workers.

“They really enjoy their interactions with the public, and it’s been very, very hard for a lot of them to give that up,” Starr said. 

Bob Sandberg, 84, has volunteered at the museum since 2010. Sandberg, who spent 24 years on active duty in the Air Force, said he was “saddened” he could not meet new visitors because of the closure but looks forward to helping out when it reopens.

“My mission in the military was to defend the country,” Sandberg said. “My mission at the museum is to educate people.”

IF YOU GO

The American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale will reopen to the public Aug. 1 on the following days and times:

  • Thursday to Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • After Labor Day, the hours will be 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday to Sunday.

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