Hill Museum Aircraft restoration

Darrel Gronau, left, an aviation structure repair instructor, teaches Connor Innocenzi, a Utah Military Academy student, a riveting technique on part of an aircraft fuselage skin on Oct. 27, 2020, at Hill Air Force Base.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — A new facility at the Hill Aerospace Museum is being used to refine the facility’s vintage aircraft while providing Northern Utah students with some hands-on work experience.

The recently opened aircraft restoration and maintenance facility is located on the northwest side of the base and will be used to take care of the museum’s multimillion dollar aircraft and Air Force artifact collection. The museum has more than 70 aircraft on display in its two indoor galleries and outside air park and features thousands of artifacts depicting the history of aviation and the U.S. Air Force. Located at 7961 Wardleigh Road, admission to the museum is free to the public.

Todd Cromar, of Hill’s 75th Air Base Wing, said in a news release that the museum aircraft are acquired from a variety of different sources and are often in need of significant refurbishment. Much of the aircraft restoration work is dependent on volunteers, Cromar said.

While many of those volunteers have an extensive background in the field, the museum is also enlisting the burgeoning talents of local high school students.

“One very exciting piece of our volunteer restoration program is the partner relationships we have with several local academic institutions,” said Brandon Hedges, the museum’s restoration chief. “(It) allows students from the surrounding community to learn and work on real aircraft at our facility.”

Cromar said an agreement with the Utah Military Academy allows junior and senior students enrolled in the charter school’s “basic airframes structure” course, to work on restoration projects involving a variety of aircraft.

Right now, the students are working on the “nose art” of a B-29 Superfortress. The World War II-era planes were used to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and are the only aircraft ever to use nuclear weapons in combat.

Cromar said students from the Davis Applied Technology College are also working on the museum’s current F-117 Nighthawk, which involves fabricating replacement parts for the plane.

The museum also offers paid annual college internships and six of those come from the restoration department. Aaron Clark, Hill Aerospace Museum director, said the outfit is looking to expand its educational offerings to local students.

“We now hope to partner with more neighboring high schools and colleges to develop an in-house airframe maintenance program to educate and inspire the airmen of tomorrow,” Clark said.

Interactive community educational opportunities have been a focus at the museum in recent years.

In 2019, the museum and the Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah turned a Vietnam War-era C-130 Hercules airplane into a classroom for science, technology, engineering and math students. The museum’s Lt. Gen. Marc C. Reynolds Aerospace Center for Education offers students a STEM Summer Passport program that provides a 12-week crash course in subjects like electricity, chemistry, astronomy, weather, magnetics, flight and more.

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