COLUMBUS, Ohio (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST)–The transformation of the original Port Columbus air terminal and tower into the Ohio Air & Space Hall of Fame thanks to substantial donations from the local aviation industry.

NetJets and FlightSafety International, two Ohio-based companies, have donated a total of $225,000 to the project, allowing the Ohio Air & Space Hall of Fame to unlock an additional $550,000 in grants from the state of Ohio.

This funding allows the nonprofit to fund the first phase of renovation on the 1929 structure, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The first phase will likely include renovations to the first floor of the structure and the installation of the museum’s initial exhibits. Construction is expected to start this summer.

We reported last year that the project will transform the 12,000-square-foot Art Deco structure into a museum and education space. The total project cost is projected to be more than initial estimates of between $2 million to $2.5 million due to rising construction costs, but final development costs are still unknown.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit will need to continue to raise money. The second floor of the project will eventually be an educational space for aviation and STEAM programming. (STEAM stands for science, technology, education arts and math.)

“Having industry leaders NetJets and FSI onboard … early is, of course, a timely boon as we continue to reach out to Central Ohio and Ohio business leaders who have a vested interest in supporting education and workforce development – foundational, ultimately, to the OAS mission and our value to the state,” said Ron Kaplan, executive director of the Ohio Air & Space Hall of Fame. “It is quite possible that continued early year fundraising success may enable us to expand and accelerate ‘phase one’ renovations from whatever level we first approve.”

Kaplan said he is eager to get the project going after construction and fundraising were delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Back in 2018, I thought we’d be working on this by 2021 and opening in 2022,” Kaplan said. “Here we are and we haven’t swung a hammer yet. Things are moving quickly (now) though, thanks to NetJets and FSI.”

When the museum is completed, private jet company NetJets will be the presenter of its “Founders Walk,” an exterior public display “heralding the original terminal’s historic significance and recognizing the key local and national leaders responsible for its creation,” according to the Air & Space Hall of Fame.

“We appreciate the opportunity to invest in the Ohio Air & Space organization and hopefully help inspire the next generation of leaders in aviation – right here in our hometown,” Adam Johnson, CEO of NetJets, said in a news release.

FlightSafety International, a major supplier of flight simulators, will be the named presenter of two flight simulator stations at the museum. One station will be available to the public on the first floor, alongside exhibits and displays featuring Ohio air and space pioneers.

Another flight simulator station will be in the second-floor educational youth learning center.

“We are particularly excited about helping OAS with the flight simulators that will be in their AvSTEAM youth learning center,” Brad Thress, president and CEO of FlightSafety International, said in the release. “With education and continuous learning always top of mind at FSI, we are thrilled to be a part of this exciting endeavor.”

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