Hill museum

Visitors walk around at the Hill Aerospace Museum on Dec. 20, 2019. 

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — More than 5 million visitors have stepped through the doors of the Hill Aerospace Museum since it opened nearly 35 years ago.

According to a base press release, the museum reached the milestone late last year.

“Knowing that more than 5 million people from around the globe learned a little about the important and historical contributions of the men and women of this installation motivates and inspires the museum team,” said Aaron Clark, the museum’s director.

When the museum opened in 1986 it bore little resemblance to what can be seen today. Then, the facility was just a 12,000-square-foot warehouse with five aircraft and a few Air Force heirlooms. Spurred by the Air Force Heritage Program and the Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah, the museum has expanded to include 145,000 square feet of exhibit space with a 34-acre outdoor airpark.

According to the Hill release, there are more than 70 aircraft and 3,300 artifacts on display at the museum today. The museum averages 300,000 visitors a year and reaches around 30,000 students through the education center.

Clark said since he became the director six years ago, the museum has expanded its educational initiative, namely through the construction of a five-classroom learning center that offers Science, Technology, Engineering and Math courses to the public.

In 2019, the museum finished work on a Vietnam era C-130 Hercules that was converted into an interactive classroom.

Crews took an old C-130 that had been stored at the museum for decades, stripped it down, renovated it, and then connected it to the museum’s second gallery, where it’s become a permanent part of the Lt. Gen. Marc C. Reynolds Aerospace Center for Education. The center’s STEM Summer Passport program provides a 12-week crash course for local students in subjects like electricity, chemistry, astronomy, weather, magnetics, flight and more.

Last year museum workers also completed an exterior restoration on the facility’s B-29 Superfortress, turning it into a replica of a retired World War II bomber that was used in Utah to train for top secret war operations.

More than 20 new exhibits are being planned for the future, according to the release, including several new static displays like the MQ-1 Predator drone and the F-117 Stealth Fighter.

Visitor numbers at the museum figure to be steady into the future, with major development planned for the west side of the base, near the facility.

In August, Northrop Grumman broke ground on the Roy Innovation Center, a site that will serve as future headquarters for the aerospace company’s work supporting the Department of Defense’s Ground Based Strategic Ballistic Deterrent program.

The Air Force is upgrading missiles, rocket motors and other components, but plans to replace them through the ballistic missile program by about 2030. According to the Congressional Research Service, the new program will cost $80 billion and run for 30 years. The total cost includes the acquisition of missiles, new command and control systems, and large-scale renovations of launch control centers.

The program will eventually include up to 2,250 new jobs and six new buildings at Hill — over 1 million square feet of office and lab facilities. Completion of the first 231,000 square feet is scheduled to be finished by mid 2020.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It’s located at 7961 Wardleigh Road, just east of the 5600 South freeway exit in Roy. Admission is free.

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