Discovery Center Launched at Tulsa Air and Space Museum

April 27--Tulsa has a new educational community resource as the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium launched the Discovery Center earlier this month.

The Discovery Center, featuring an MD-80 aircraft donated to the museum by American Airlines, will initially serve as a facility for educational presentations, meetings and events, according to Mary Smith Crofts, museum executive director.

"We already have several events scheduled, including corporate meetings and children's parties," Crofts said in a news release. "The Discovery Center really offers an exclusive experience that inspires creativity while providing a great connection to aviation."

Crofts said the cockpit remains in its original conditions, providing museum guests with a pilot's eye view of the instruments that control the airplane. The cabin has been reconfigured to accommodate a broad range of uses, but includes 24 first-class cabin seats. The remaining cabin area is open to provide maximum flexibility for student presentations or corporate meetings, according to Crofts.

A full galley is located at the aft of the airplane along with a handicap accessible restroom.

Donated to the museum in 2011 after logging 75,120 flight hours, the MD-80 was manufactured by McDonnell Douglas Boeing Commercial Airplanes. American Airlines purchased the aircraft, with tail number N259AA, in 1985, and it saw 39,968 landings before its retirement in April 2011. Between 1979-1999, there were 1,191 MD-80s introduced into commercial service, with the unit cost at the time ranging from $41.5 million to $48.5 million. The MD-80 arrived at the museum one year ago and was lifted over the airport fence and placed at its current location at the museum, Crofts said.

Carmine Romano, board president for the TASM, said the team of individuals and corporations responsible for bringing the aircraft to the museum should be commended for their assistance in this effort.

"We are extremely grateful for the corporate citizenship displayed by American Airlines through their donation of this multi-million dollar asset," Romano said in the news release, noting Taylor Crane and the American maintenance base for their support of the first-class facility.

Bill Collins, vice president of Base Maintenance for AA, said American Airlines has been part of the Tulsa community for almost 70 years and understands the important role they play in the development and well-being of the communities where they operate.

"Taking care of these relationships is an important priority for all of us at American, and this is why we support community projects like The Discovery Center," Collins said.

A ribbon-cutting event April 7 marked the completion of the three-year-long project to repurpose the aircraft from its traditional commercial use to a multi-purpose facility that will be used to promote the adventure, innovation, imagination and opportunity associated with flight, Crofts said.

The Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium provides interactive science-based exhibits to entertain and educate visitors of all ages and 19,000 square feet of aviation history and an experience of traveling through the stars in the planetarium.

Copyright 2014 - Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.

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