Thursday, February 28, 2013

TWA Still Soaring High In Kansas City

The TWA Museum at the  Charles B. Wheeler Airport
Kansas City’s commercial aviation history is rich and fascinating, and to learn more about it, all you have to do is visit the TWA Museum at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. 

Located at 10 Richards Road, in the same building as TWA’s original headquarters, the museum is run by two former TWA flight attendants, Pam Blaschum and Mary Ellen Miller, and spotlights all the major triumphs, tragedies, and headlines of the once world-famous airline, including its purchase by American Airlines in 2001.

TWA - Airline of the Stars
Even before you enter the museum, you notice the hallway is covered with photos of famous celebrities who once flew TWA because it was “the airline of the stars,” a reputation earned when Howard Hughes owned the aviation giant.

There are also display cases filled with news articles, artifacts and many of the “firsts” accomplished by TWA.   For example, did you know that in 1934 TWA was the first commercial airline to adopt the Sperry automatic pilot as standard equipment to reduce pilot fatigue?

Bullet Casing From Flight 847
One case holds a bullet casing recovered from TWA Flight 847, hijacked on its way from Athens to Rome on June 14, 1985 by Shiite Hezbollah terrorists.  The two-week ordeal resulted in the death of one passenger, U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, whose body was dumped on a runway in Beirut.

Another case contains newspaper articles and a photo of TWA flight attendant Nellie Granger.  She was aboard a TWA DC-2 on April 7, 1936 bound for Pittsburgh when it crashed into a mountainside just outside of Uniontown, Pennsylvania.  Eleven of the fourteen people aboard were killed.

Nellie Granger
Nellie was thrown from the plane upon impact and injured, but she reentered the burning wreckage to save the other two survivors – the wife of the mayor of Newark and a man with two broken legs.   Afterwards, she trudged through dense woodlands to get help and then back again with the rescuers.  In all, Nellie walked eleven miles that day.

Pope John Paul II Flies TWA
The museum itself consists of three fairly compact rooms and a small gift shop.  Two of the rooms are filled with photos, vintage uniforms, airplane equipment, memorabilia, and artifacts from some of TWA’s most memorable flights, such as the one that transported Pope John Paul II.

The third room is dedicated to TWA founders Paul Richter, Jack Frye, and Walter Hamilton with a small memorial by its entrance to the employees of Flight 800 who perished on July 17, 1996, shortly after the plane left New York for Paris.
The museum takes approximately 60-90 minutes to tour, is better suited for adults than children and does a nice job of keeping TWA’s company history and spirit alive. 


March 1 – September 30
Monday – Saturday
10AM - 4PM

October 1 – February 28

Tuesday – Saturday
10AM - 4PM
Call to schedule a Special Tour
Closed Holidays.


Adults                   $5.00
Children 6-12     $3.00
Seniors                 $3.00
Military(w/ID)   FREE

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