American Airlines

If you (or your kids) love airplanes, this museum puts you in the cockpit

An MD-80 cockpit at the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum.
An MD-80 cockpit at the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum.

Visitors to the newly renovated American Airlines’ C.R. Smith Museum can sit at the controls of an MD-80 cockpit.

In a simulated operations center, they can make judgment calls about whether to send a virtual aircraft through bad weather.

The recently-completed, multimillion-dollar renovation of the museum along Texas 360 in far northeast Fort Worth (just south of DFW Airport) is aimed at making the whole experience more hands-on.

“What we wanted go do with this renovation, we wanted to refocus the experience to give visitors a greater insight into the operations of an airline and the people that run it every day,” said Uli Das, museum executive director. “We also wanted to make it significantly more interactive. Before this renovation, the museum was really nice, but more static.”

The museum is governed by its own nonprofit board of directors, and is named after Cyrus Rowlett Smith, who served as the airline’s chief executive from 1934-68 and 1973-74.

Airline and museum officials declined to disclose precisely how much the renovation cost. It was funded by gifts from American Airlines, aircraft manufacturer Boeing and model aircraft maker PacMin.

The renovation also will give visitors a chance to get an up-close look at the new $300 million American Airlines headquarters, which is being built adjacent to the museum and is scheduled to open next year. The new campus, also known as the Robert L Crandall Global Support Campus, will house roughly 12,000 of American’s roughly 25,000 North Texas employees, and will feature a town square, bike paths and other amenities.

“The museum connects us with the community,” said Jonathan Pierce, American director of campus culture and change. “It also preserves American Airlines history and brings together all our team members as sort of a cultural rock.”

Also among the new features is a baggage loading exhibit, where guests can try their hand and loading up an aircraft against the clock.

And, for old-school aviation fans, the C.R. Smith Museum — which originally opened in 1993 — will still have several features that have been there for years. Among them is a restored 1940s DC-3 that is still on display — with curtains and other amenities giving visitors a taste of what it was like to travel in the post-World War II era.

The museum typically draws 25,000 to 38,000 visitors per year, and also performs aviation education outreach at Fort Worth-area schools.

The renovated museum is open now, although a ribbon-cutting is tentatively planned Sept. 18.

Regular hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Tickets are $9 for adults, $6 for seniors and children.

For more information visit the museum website or call 817-967-5922.

American Airlines' first flight to Reyjkavik, Iceland was celebrated with pancakes and Coca-Cola at DFW Airport. Wowair and Icelandair also recently started DFW service to Iceland.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796; @gdickson
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