Patuxent Naval Air Station, MD – What originally began as a temporary location for the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum 14 years ago is currently being turned into a museum complex.

The property currently consists of two buildings, one of which holds the museum exhibits and a second building that is currently being used for storage. A third building is under construction and will fully take this facility from a museum building to a museum complex.

The new building, currently referred to as “Building A”, is expected to be completed sometime in June 2015 and is planned to be open to the public sometime around October 2015.

The current building, “Building B” will be renovated as exhibits are moved to Building A.

The third building, “Building C”, located to the right of Building B will be remediated so that it will be able to hold artifacts and archives as well as be used for preparing new exhibits, leaving room for more exhibits and activity facilities in Buildings A and B.

Architecturally, the museum believes the design of Building A will make the museum a landmark for St. Mary’s County and Southern Maryland.

“Constructing the roof has proved to be a challenge for the building contractors, a challenge they have met well, in spite of the weather,” said Hank Caruso, a museum volunteer. “No one has built a roof like this that I know of. It is not a common roof design. In fact, there’s an element of it that actually reflects a NASA Airfoil shape. It’s going to be very iconic.”

A new building is not the only change being made at the museum, there are many changes being made from design, to interactivity of exhibits, to events.

The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum Association vice president, Pete Butt, is an audiovisual expert.  He has brought a lot of new design elements to the museum such as lighting, as well as video and interactivity at the different exhibits.

Caruso, pictured left, has also been working on updating the signs for the existing exhibits and artifacts that better explain what they are and their purpose.

“We want people to learn something interesting about the history and purpose of flight-testing, not just look at ‘stuff’,” said Caruso.

In addition to the design changes the museum also hopes to set up “Selfie Spots” where there will be a background behind the exhibit to create the illusion that the visitor is in the air or flying a plane.

The most interactive exhibit of the museum is the flight simulator “squadron”. There are four flight simulators in the museum that can be rented out for $10 per 30 minutes. Through these simulators visitors are able to fly a plane of their choice on the simulation while sitting in a real fighter jet cockpit. 

Caruso said that they are really hoping to get children more involved with the exhibits so that they will enjoy their time there and want to return.

“In terms of overall county attraction it’s really got to be the families primarily that come in here, and want to come in here, and want to come in here on a repeat basis because we have something that’s cool and interesting” said Caruso.

“Towards this end, the museum has developed new programs to draw visitors to the museum, including a bimonthly ‘Meet the Airplane!” series for families and aviation buffs and third-Thursday Decompression Nights where professionals can meet in a relaxed social atmosphere surrounded by aviation artifacts.  Other special events, such as galas, magic shows, and educational programs are also being developed.”

There are several under-appreciated treasures throughout the museum that will be given more of a spotlight when the new building is open for visitors and the current building is renovated.

There is an extensive collection of engines as well as several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS) that have been used in testing at the Patuxent River Naval Air Base Station.

According to Caruso, there is no other museum like this, both in terms of artifacts and mission. Many museums focus on what was used operationally, but some of the exhibits in the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum never made it to the field because they were the prototypes that helped the Navy figure out what would, and what would not work in operational service.

Another hidden treasure that will be displayed in the newly expanded museum is a moon rock that was donated to the museum by astronaut Jim Lovell who graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

Contrary to popular belief, the museum is not affiliated with the Naval Air Station. The museum is managed and operated completely by volunteers; there are no full time paid employees. The museum does not receive any funding from the Navy or from the Federal government.

A connection that the museum does have to the base, however, is the collection of almost two-dozen flight-test aircraft that are available for visitors of the museum to look at, but belong to the Navy.

Unique parts of this collection are the Lockheed Martin X-35C and the Boeing X-32 flight demonstrators, which were the planes that competed in the Joint Strike Fighter competition.

“We are the only museum in the world that has one of each of those flight demonstrators,” said Caruso.

The Joint Strike Fighter competition was between the two planes to see which design would be more effective to develop into what is now known as the F-35 Lightning II.

The exhibits at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum hold many educational opportunities for those who visit. According to Caruso, the opportunities will continue to expand significantly in the coming months and over time the museum believes it will become an even more valuable tourism asset for the Southern Maryland area.

Contact Jessica Goodell at