A modern gondola for a Goodyear blimp is displayed in the exhibition hangar at MAPS Air Museum near the crude aircraft of a pioneer of flight, William Martin’s glider.
A Martin B-26 Marauder bomber is paired with its smaller World War II sister, a P-51 propeller-driven fighter.
Other displays in the exhibition hangar at MAPS Air Museum are mostly military-oriented — MAPS stands for Military Aviation Preservation Society — but they transcend eras of air warfare, cross political boundaries and do not take sides. Space is allocated to an American F-14 Tomcat jet fighter like the ones flown in the film “Top Gun,” but areas also are used to display a Russian MiG fighter jet from the Cold War period and a British Sopwith Triplane of the type flown during World War I.
“There is 30 years between that Martin glider and that Marauder,” said Kim Kovesci, MAPS director. “And there is 30 years difference between the Marauder and the F-14 Tomcat. So there is 60 years of history — my lifetime — between the glider and the jet fighter. It’s amazing.”
Those who work for and volunteer at MAPS Air Museum seem to do so with a mixture of that amazement and love of aviation. Many of those who labor to restore aircraft to go on display at MAPS have a personal connection to them.
Don Block flew B-26 bombers during World War II. The new P-51 that recently had its wings attached soon will be painted the colors of the P-51s that Robert Withee flew during World War II. Ken Ramsay flew F-100 fighters, then directed the restoration of one for the museum.
Men who were members of the 82nd Airborne restored a C-47, the kind plane they jumped from during their days in the military.
“It goes on and on like that,” said Kovesci. “It’s not about the airplanes. It’s about the relationships people have with the airplanes.”
And, to tell the stories of those people, displays at MAPS go beyond the cockpit. Artifacts, images and text panels exhibited in the relatively new Gallery of Heroes chronicle the roles that men and women in northeast Ohio played in military aviation throughout its history.
Kovesci said once a man who had traveled to see dozens of military museums approached him after spending time in the Gallery of Heroes at MAPS.
“He said, ‘You have to understand, this is the 167th air museum I’ve been to, and that’s the finest room I’ve ever seen,’” said Kovesci, who noted that the Gallery of Heroes even has a piece of the Arizona, a ship that was sunk during the air attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941.
“That classifies us as a war memorial.”
The closeness between people and planes is extended to museum visitors, who are allowed to become part of many of the displays.
“We let people get in some of the airplanes,” explained Kovesci. “We let them get in the F-100. We let them get in the MiG. And we let them get in the (blimp) gondola for the Spirit of Akron. Where else can you do something like that?”
The eagerness to allow visitors to experience, as well as look at, as many displays as possible is in keeping with the museum’s mission to educate the public about military aviation.
“We’re focused on education,” said Kovesci, who noted that last year a grant brought in more than 1,000 students from history classes at six area high schools — Timken, North Canton, Lake, Tuslaw, Canton South and Central Catholic. With additional funding for next year’s round of tours, Kovesci expects that number of visiting students to double.
The total number of annual visitors to the museum has mushroomed in the last four years, he said.
“We were at 6,200. Then we went to 7,200. The next year it was 11,000. This year we were at 16,700 as of the end of October.”
Volunteer hours have risen from 35,000 last year to an expected 45,000 this year. And the use by researchers of the museum’s 4,000-book Louise Timken Aviation Library, funded by the Timken Foundation, has steadily increased.
“We’re really growing this place,” Kovesci said.
The highlights of the museum, of course, remain the aircraft — 39 of them at the moment, and counting. Planes are constantly being restored in the adjacent workshop structure and continually added to displays in the exhibition building — exhibits that are frequently reconstructed.
“We like everything on wheels,” jokes Kovesci. “The tour guides have to come to look at the hanger every week so they know for sure where things are.
“What’s really neat is when you get people in here who haven’t been here for three or four years and you see their facial expressions. They’re amazed with what is here.”
IF YOU GO
Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) Air Museum
2260 International Parkway, North Canton, OH 44720
Details: MAPS Air Museum currently exhibits 39 aircraft and more than 40 displays of artifacts and memorabilia.
Museum hours: Winter hours are 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Admission: Admission is free with membership or $8 for adults, $7 for seniors (60 and older), $5 for children (6-12), children younger than 6 are free.
Membership per year: $40 individual, $50 family, $30 senior individual, $40 senior family, $25 student, $400 lifetime, $500 corporate, and $1,000 patron.
ABOUT THE SOCIETY
Military Aviation Preservation Society is a volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about the history of military aviation. Kim Kovesci is executive director. Directors are Bob Schwartz (chairman), Kent Kleinknecht, Ron Duplain, Ken Ramsay, Steve Satchell, Keith Swinehart, and Rick Hamlet.
AMONG THE AIRCRAFT
Aircraft displayed at MAPS Air Museum include:
F-102A Delta Dagger
A-7E Corsair II
F-100D Super Sabre