‘Come fly with me:’ Fundraiser supports aviation museum’s education programs
Dozens of supporters from towns around Manchester and also from other states gathered at the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire for a recent event that generated contributions of cash and good will.
The event was a grand “Beer Tasting and March Madness at The Museum” fundraiser presented Thursday, March 22, at the museum, located in Londonderry on Navigator Road, behind the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
Jessica Pappathan, executive director of the museum since 2014, said friends enjoyed an evening of beer and ale samplings and lots of door prizes. A broadcasted basketball game and pub-style appetizers added excitement to the evening sponsored by Macy Industries, Inc., metal fabricators since 1975 and restorers of various metal artifacts at the museum.
“The event was held to raise funds for the museum’s aviation education programs, including our K-8 school outreach program, and our high school course which is open to juniors and seniors at no cost to participants,” Pappathan said. “We hope to inspire young people to pursue careers in the exciting field of aviation.”
Nashua had solid representation at the fundraiser. Aviation professionals including Nashua Airport Manager Chris Lynch, local pilot Dave Sullivan and Ryan Retelle, a Nashua pilot and flight instructor, added their donations, as did many others from the area.
Some guests took a turn sitting in the flight crew cockpit of an Embraer 110, a twin-engine turboprop whose aged maroon leather seats and dual controls were original equipment. Others
inspected a heavy woven wicker basket that in 1783 bore aloft two explorers during the world’s first untethered hot air balloon flight. Some learned that Derry native Alan B. Shepard, in his youth, rode his bicycle to the airport to watch the planes. He was the first American in space.
Many other relics of aviation history in the Granite State were appreciated that night. A tribute is there to Albert Read, of Lyme, a pilot whose crew of five made the world’s first transatlantic flight in 1919. Read’s accomplishment preceded that of Charles Lindbergh, who made the trip eight years later, solo and nonstop.
Nashuan Mark Ryan learned about the fundraiser from a friend. He was a first-time visitor to the former Manchester airport terminal building, launch point for thousands of Europe-bound troops and civilian travelers. He marveled at the diversity of the artifacts that illustrate aviation history in the Granite State.
Ryan and others perused exhibits throughout the building, a structure built in 1937 in Art Deco style. Now, the building holds the treasures that detail the exploits of New Hampshire’s aviation pioneers. Volunteers offer tours. Classes and programs are plentiful. Those inclined to learn more can visit aviation
Plenty of the fundraiser’s participants stopped to peer at the expanse of wooden bones and the yellow wings that were a part of the “Doodle Bug,” a 1929 construction by designers Caleb Marston and Perley Ordway whose talents completed the first New Hampshire biplane aircraft. Its patent was granted in 1930.
Elsewhere, Ryan and Pappathan noted a photo mural that shared a timeline illustrating the development of the region’s transportation hub, the Manchester Airport, originally Grenier Field during World War II.
The current museum building was built in 1937 and was the airport’s main terminal for many years. It was funded to 78 percent by the WPA – the Works Progress Administration, a Federal program that employed millions devastated by the Great Depression. Visitor Ryan said he was impressed.
“My mom and I used to fly in Cessnas, out of Whitefield – up in the mountains,” Ryan said. “We all fly somewhere and this museum is all about aviation.”
The unused building eventually was moved across two runways to Navigator Road, where a grand view of planes arriving and departing from the Manchester airport draws folks who park along the fence and wait to see the planes. The New Hampshire Aviation Historical Society preserves the aviation legacy that is enshrined at the museum.
Pappathan said the Aviation Museum is a resource ready to be tapped by anyone interested in history and the men and women who made aviation great throughout the state. She thanked all who supported the event.
Much appreciated were the beer and ale samples and door prizes that came from brewmeisters Jim Varela and Jake Felton, of Able Ebenezer Brewing Company in Merrimack; Al Lelesz, of Rockingham Brewing Company in Derry; Terry Murphy and “Fab 5 Freddy” Pihl, of Lithermans Limited Brewery in Concord; Matt Kinney, of Great North Aleworks in Manchester; and Bernice Van Der Berg, of Moonlight Meadery in Londonderry.
“We are seeking volunteers, especially those who would enjoy giving guided tours through the museum,” said Pappathan. “An aviation background is not necessary and training is provided, so contact us to join the fun!”