New Air & Space Museum Provides Immersive Experience

HYANNIS – A new attraction which showcases aviation and the state’s air and space travel history has opened in Hyannis.

The Massachusetts Air and Space Museum is open at Capetown Plaza in the location formerly occupied by Charming Charlie.

Along with artifacts that tell stories of the state’s aviation and space history, the museum features several immersive experiences, including a flight simulator, remote control plane and drone practice programs, and virtual reality technology.

“We have cool technology going on over there,” said Keith Young, a museum board member.

Young said written and visual exhibits are not the same as being able to experience what it feels like to fly.

The flight simulator allows for guests to experience the cockpit of a plane.

“It allows you to immerse into what it takes to operate that in a very safe environment,” Young said.

He said remote control airplanes can also introduce visitors to general aviation.

Piloting real remote controlled devices is not practical indoors, but Young said the museum will feature software used by remote control pilots when they can’t get outdoors.

“That piece of software has most of the airplanes that are available at your local hobby store and it comes with a controller just like the controller that comes with your remote control airplane,” Young said. “And we have it on an 86-inch screen.”

Users of the program feel as if they are standing at the edge of a field flying a remote control airplane, according to Young.

The program also allows for practicing drone flight.

Drone operation is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration. To be a commercial drone pilot, an FAA drone pilot license is required.

“Part of what the museum wants to do is help people not only understand how to operate a drone safely, but also set people on a possible career path for using these new technologies,” Young said.

Virtual reality headsets will also allow visitors to take a tour on the International Space Station and fly in the cockpit with the Blue Angels.

“We have some very exciting immersive experiences,” Young said.

A goal of the museum is to enhance STEM education efforts in the region.

“There is probably no other field than aviation that encompasses all of STEM better than learning to fly, and it’s fun,” Young said.

“What a better way than to encompass math, engineering and learning all of the skills that young people learn in school and get something out of it.”

Young said that teens should know that a pilot’s license can be obtained at 16 years of age, which is before a driver’s license.

“You can actually learn to fly an airplane before you are allowed to drive a car,” he said. “Part of what the museum wants to do is help young people learn to do that.”

The museum was founded in 2007, but did not have a physical location until opening in Hyannis.

Massachusetts was the last state in the U.S. to have an air and space museum.

“It is something that has been lacking because Massachusetts has a great amount of things to offer in aviation and space exploration,” Young said. “There are a lot of firsts that happened here in Massachusetts.”

The non-profit’s leadership was originally looking to house the museum at Laurence G. Hanscom Field in Bedford.

“The space we thought we would have got eaten up by the necessity of the aviation community there,” Young said.

The Barnstable Municipal Airport Commission, manager and assistant manager though Hyannis was a good fit for the museum and began discussions with the museum board a few years ago.

“The community of Barnstable and Hyannis has been wonderful,” Young said.

Young is not worried about the planned redevelopment of the Capetown Plaza to the Landing at Hyannis, by WS Development. The firm was recently awarded a lease from the town beginning in 2024 to redevelop the property into a mixed use development.

“[The museum] may not be in the physical location it is now, but we are planning to be here for a long time,” Young said.

The museum is remaining in constant communication with WS Development. It is also remaining mobile so that artifacts and exhibits can move.

“We may be in a smaller space. We may be in a bigger space,” Young said. “We can be flexible in any space that they need as they rehab the [property.]”

Museum leadership also has a goal of being on the airfield in Hyannis with a restaurant and conference center, along with keeping a presence at the Landing.

The museum is open Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for kids ages 5-11 and free for active military.

“We want to be a place where people can come, feel comfortable, learn about what’s involved with learning to fly, learn about how to become an astronaut, learn about aerospace, and be more than just a building with stuff in it,” Young said.

The museum also wants to participate in community events and make it feel like a career in air and space travel is attainable by local residents.

“If you thought aviation and space exploration was exciting when you were 5, you are going to think it’s incredibly exciting when you are 15, 25, 45 or when you are 75 or 95,” Young said.

For more information about the museum, visit massairspace.org.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the CapeCod.com NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.



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