Wichita on the Cheap

Live the Good Life for Less & Never Miss a Deal

Exploration Place Brings Wichita’s Aviation Industry to Life with New Exhibit

A brand-new permanent exhibit, Design, Build, Fly, is now open at Exploration Place!

The exhibit encompasses all that makes Wichita the “Air Capital of the World”.  This hands-on experience is a great way for generations to bond and feel a sense of pride in our community. I envision parents and grandparents enjoying the exhibit and telling their children and grandchildren all about what they do or did in the aviation industry.

For generations, aviation has been a part of the very fabric of Wichita. Wichitans have taken great pride in helping design, test, fly and manufacture airplanes. In fact, many of my own relatives, including my dad and grandpa, work or have worked in the aircraft industry.

Starting in the early 1900s, Wichita has been home to several aircraft manufaturers including Beechcraft, Cessna, Learjet, and Boeing. At the start of World War I in 1914, there was a boom in the industry. Women and men went to work in the aircraft plants and had a great sense of pride in serving their country.

Wichita’s pride still shows in the quality work produced by such manufacturers as Textron’s Cessna Aircraft and Hawker Beechcraft, Spirit AeroSystems and Airbus Industries Wing Design Division, and Bombardier Aerospace Learjet Division as well as several smaller companies who make and supply parts to the aforementioned companies.

However, in recent years, after many rounds of layoffs, the industry is seeing a shortage of workers. Many of those who were laid off, left town or found jobs in other industries. Wichita is looking to bring pride back to the aviation industry and spark renewed interest in the next generation. To help with this, many companies had input in creating a unique, permanent, hands-on aviation exhibit at Exploration Place.

The new Exploration Place exhibit opened Saturday, December 2, 2017.

I had the opportunity to check out the new exhibit and love it! From the moment I walked into the room, it felt as if I had entered an aircraft plant.  It invoked memories of the open houses at Boeing that I attended as a child with my family. Cement floors, a full-size airplane wing and an actual airplane in its various stages of production are just a few of the things one will see.

Unlike the previous aviation exhibit at Exploration Place which focused on the science of flight, you won’t find the new exhibit in any other science center. This one encompasses the entire aviation industry from designing the plane, to what it takes to actually build it and finally flying itself. This exhibit is truly unique to Wichita and will allow people to experience the aviation industry hands-on.

For instance, you can race your friends to see who is the fastest at putting rivets in a plane. You can also virtually paint an airplane with an actual paint gun, lift a hatchway (escape hatch door) to feel how heavy it is, watch videos of the assembly line while sitting in part of an airplane in the Fuselage Theater, sit in a luxury jet, sit in a cockpit and fly, design your own plane, fly an unmanned aerial vehicle (similar to a drone), test landing gear,  guess the smells in an aircraft plant (fuel, paint, etc.), fix electrical wires on a real plane wing, and more.

And kids are sure to love the toilet exhibit where you get to send giant fuzzy pom pom balls into an airplane toilet and watch them get sucked into the tube to answer the age old question: “Where exactly does “it” go when you flush on an airplane?”

This exhibit is sure to entertain kids and adults of all ages.

There are also several events and educational programs designed around Design Build Fly to ensure visitors have a top flight experience. These include, but are not limited to a new digital dome theater film Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag, camps and everything in between.  For a complete list of events, visit the Exploration Place website.

Entrance into the Design Build Fly exhibit is included in the general museum admission fee and free for members.

This exhibit was designed and produced by Roto Group, LLC., Dublin, Ohio.

The lead donors for this exhibit are: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Spirit AeroSystems, Textron Aviation, Bombardier Learjet, Estate of Muriel C. Braden, Bill and Lisa Farris, and Kansas Oklahoma Machine Tools, Inc., The Fidelity Bank Foundation, and Jeff and Rhonda Turner.

Scroll to the top