Kids of all ages are invited to climb into the cockpit and take a ride back in time at the MAPS Air Museum in Green. The facility houses aircraft and artifacts from throughout the history of flight. The museum is managed by the Military Aviation Preservation Society, a nonprofit dedicated to educating people about the history of military aviation.
“We started 24 years ago with one airplane in the corner of a maintenance shop,” says Kim Kovesci, the museum’s executive director.
Now it is the second-largest aviation museum in the state with 41 aircraft in both indoor and outdoor displays.
The main features of the family-friendly site are the planes, the MAPS members themselves and the Gallery of Heroes.
“We have little kids who walk in and just start screaming ‘airplane,’” Kovesci says. “They want to get in it, and we let them.” Guests are invited to board as many planes as possible.
“They can actually touch it and feel what it’s liked to be in the cramped quarters of a MiG-17,” Kovesci said. “It’s pretty scary.”
Aircraft on display range from a Martin Glider built in 1908 to a Martin B-26 Marauder, a bomber used in World War II. Some of the planes are complete and others are in progress. The site itself — a former National Guard hangar — is undergoing restoration by MAPS members and volunteers.
Visitors are often surprised by the massive size of the flying structures. However, for Kovesci, it’s the speed of innovation that stands out.
“I think the one thing that really amazes me is when we go into the hangar and look, there’s only 30 years difference between that wooden, rickety glider and that bomber,” he says.
Another surprise for many is Northeast Ohio’s vital role in World War II. Local companies such as Goodyear, Timken and Firestone all made important contributions to the war effort, as did many soldiers from the area.
“They are surprised by the fact that local people did extraordinary things,” Kovesci says.
Some of those people include members of MAPS who are on hand each day to lead tours through the facility.
“We have three full-bird colonels, a couple generals and whole bunch of enlisted,” Kovesci says. “We have guys working in the gift shop who were helicopter pilots in Vietnam. You just never know who you are around.”
The veterans take families and school groups through the museum, bringing battles to life and honoring those who fought. The Gallery of Heroes includes artifacts and memorabilia donated by local soldiers and displays on Rosie the Riveter, female World War II pilots known as WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pilots who were portrayed in the 2012 feature film “Red Tails.”
Another highlight is a piece of the USS Arizona, which classifies the site as a war memorial.
“When you look at the Pearl Harbor display and you look at the names, at how devastating that attack was, it’s pretty heavy,” Kovesci said.
The museum’s goal is to expand visitors’ knowledge of history from what happened to why it happened.
“We want to make sure the stories are told so the sacrifices aren’t forgotten,” Kovesci said. “That’s really what’s it all about.”
The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and is closed Mondays. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors 60 and older, $5 for kids 6-12 and free for those 5 and younger.
MAPS Air Museum is located at 2260 International Parkway. For driving directions, events and other information, visit mapsairmuseum.org or call 330-896-6332.