The Curtiss Jenny, an integral part of Wichita Falls history, might soon have a new, permanent home specially made for the delicate 95-year-old working airplane.
About 3,700 square feet added to the Wichita Falls Municipal Airport would provide a permanent home for the aircraft of the type that helped train pilots in World War I at the Call Field Army Air Corps Training Facility in Wichita Falls.
A glass wall will allow visitors passing the airport drive entrance a view of the spotlighted exhibit day or night, Robert Seabury, committee chairman of the Call Field Memorial exhibit, said.
The Jenny, housed at the Call Field Memorial Exhibit at the Kickapoo Airport, is one of six working Curtiss Jenny planes left.
Seabury, who helped find and arrange for the Jenny to come to Wichita Falls from a man who owned the plane in Indi
ana, said allowing the Jenny to rest at the new airport terminal will save the delicate aircraft — made of wood and cloth.
“We want the Jenny to be available ... 50 years from now for people to see the role that Wichita Falls has played in today’s Air Force, starting with Call Field 95 years ago. Most people don’t realize that Wichita Falls has been such an important part of the development of today’s Air Force,” Seabury said.
At the terminal the Jenny will be available for thousands to see instead of the 70-80 visitors per month at the Call Field Memorial Exhibit hangar, Seabury said. The current hangar provides no protection from heat, cold or moisture, affecting the condition of the plane.
In a Feb. 5 City Council meeting, Wichita Falls city councilors approved 50 percent, up to $336,000, from the 4B Sales Tax Board toward the additional cost to expand the airport plans.
The additional cost to house the Jenny and a T-38 training fighter jet from Sheppard Air Force Base is $405,000. Seabury then must raise $202,500 privately.
John Burrus, aviation, traffic and transportation director, said the city is in complete support of Seabury and his efforts to find a permanent home for the Jenny, but the city has fiscal responsibilities.
“We hope he succeeds. We just didn’t think it was fair to the taxpayers to add that burden to them to pay for that square footage because, frankly, we weren’t getting any FAA assistance for that museum area,” Burrus said.
Seabury believes it is important to educate future generations about the role the Jenny and Wichita Falls played in the development of the Air Force at Call Field 95 years ago.
Seabury said he has a horse race and an air show at Possum Kingdom lake planned in the near future to raise funds for the project.
Sheppard Air Force Base is also in full support of the exhibit at the airport.
“It’s a real opportunity for Sheppard to tell the community what’s going on at Sheppard and all the incredible things that it does for the community as well as the defense of our nation,” Seabury said.
The planes are not the only feature airport visitors will be able to see. Two mannequins, a soldier standing by the Jenny and an airman dressed in current day uniform by the T-38, will describe their base with the push of a button.
The Jenny exhibit also includes a 1918 Model T Staff Car, a 1918 Madel T Troop Carrier — both operational — and a granite monument listing the names of the 34 airmen who lost their lives in training accidents.
In the event Seabury is not able to raise all funds by Aug. 1, the cost to add the exhibit goes up to $672,000.
“We were able to reduce the cost ... by absorbing it into the main project,” Burrus said.
If all else fails, the blueprints can be altered to take the exhibit out.
Donations can be sent to the Museum of North Texas History, Attn: Charles Campbell, 720 Indiana Ave., Wichita Falls, TX 76301. For more information contact Seabury at 940-696-8783.
Follow Alyssa Johnston on Twitter @alyjohnston.