PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor is one of Hawaii's newest museums. More than 400 people showed up at a museum fundraiser Thursday night to show support for its future.
The museum hoped to raise $200,000 to $300,000 in the dinner and dance celebrating its fifth anniversary. The money will be used to acquire more historic aircraft and to restore buildings at the Ford Island site.
"We're standing here in Hangar 79," said museum executive director Kenneth DeHoff about the building where the fundraiser was held. "That's a historic hangar also, built in 1939. Two acres, eighty-six thousand square feet under roof here. And we need to put 16 different airlines in here that we still don't have."
The museum has drawn 700,000 visitors over the past five years. It also has managed to keep raising money to expand, even in a bad economy, and even though a lot of people don't know about it.
"I meet a lot of locals and I start talking to them about this museum," said retired Adm. Ron Hays, who is chairman of the museum's board of directors. "And they say, 'what museum?' They're not even aware of this effort that is ongoing here."
The museum is trying to change that by doing more than just having exhibits on display.
"We do a lot of education for children and adults, and in our mission statement,so its very important that we honor and support all aviation personnel, future as well as past," said Carol Arnott, the museum's director of development.
"We have simulators that we put them in," Hays said. "We explain to them the science that is required of aviation."
Perhaps the most visible part of the museum has actually been under wraps for the last several months. The Ford Island air control tower, built in 1941, is finally close to being restored and ready to welcome visitors.
"You know, that control tower had an awful lot of rust on it," DeHoff said. "Five of the eight columns that hold the top up were rusted through almost all the way, so we had to replace those."
Complete restoration of the tower will cost $7.5 million. About $3.8 million came from Department of Defense appropriations, which allowed the museum to begin the work.
Scaffolding still surrounds the tower, but the scaffolds should be removed in time for next week's commemoration of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The tower will be dedicated as part of the ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the attack.