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Iowa All Over: Iowa Aviation Heritage Museum showcases state's military, aviation history

Grounded, but still flying

A one fifth scale B-29, left, and B-17 models hang from the ceiling at the Iowa Military Aviation Museum in Ankeny on Mo
A one fifth scale B-29, left, and B-17 models hang from the ceiling at the Iowa Military Aviation Museum in Ankeny on Monday, March 30, 2015. The radio-controlled model bombers are powered by industrial chain-saw engines, though museum President Roger Pointer says they are too valuable to fly anymore. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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ANKENY — Twenty-five years ago, Roger Pointer had an idea. He envisioned a place that would house memorabilia honoring both the state's military aviation and general aviation history.

Pointer is a member of the Commemorative Air Force, based in Texas. It was founded to “acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft which were flown by all military services of the United States,” according to its website.

Pointer wanted a place closer to home, in Iowa, that could house and showcase the state's military aviation history.

Inside the museum in Ankeny, model planes hang from the ceiling. Artifacts are displayed in nearly every corner and open space. Memorabilia competes for viewing.

Visitors can view an array of one-fifth scale flying models, engine cutaways, books, photos and paintings.

“Our motto is, it came to Iowa, it's going to stay in Iowa,” Pointer said. “A lot of World War II vets came home and they brought stuff with them. Families, they didn't know what to do with it. Well, now, they know what to do with it.”

One of the most impressive pieces is a huge cutaway 36-cylinder radial engine of the type used in the Convair B-36 Peacemaker.

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Toward the back of the museum, a sliding door opens up to reveal planes standing on the runway. One of them is a Republic F-84F Thunderstreak, a fighter bomber from the 1950s. The plane was brought to the museum slung under a CH-47 Chinook.

Each item in the museum has a story. To take a tour and hear Pointer tell each story is an equal part of the experience. He has made it his mission to keep Iowa's military history in the public mind by recording, preserving and sharing the history of each and every artifact inside the museum.

Today, many in Ankeny aren't aware of the museum, Pointer said.

“Ankeny on the whole is a younger generation moved in here,” he said. “You just see all the new houses. They're really not interested in history. Sad, and they're all not nuts like I am. I want to keep the history alive.”

The museum brings in groups of children to talk to them about World War II and give them an opportunity to see and touch pieces of history, Pointer said. The Aviation Museum attracts some 10,000 visitors annually.

The venue also hosts air and car shows that attract visitors from across the state, he added. Aviation is part of the neighborhood.

The Iowa Aviation Heritage Museum is located on Convenience Boulevard in Ankeny. Also on Convenience Boulevard is Exec 1 Aviation, Iowa's general aviation hub.

The Des Moines Flight Standards District Office, part of the Federal Aviation Authority, is on the north end of the field.

The Ankeny Regional Airport has a 5,500-foot long runway, Pointer said. The airport is used frequently for corporate flights.

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Casey's has its headquarters just a stone's throw away on SE Convenience Boulevard. The airport brings in passengers doing business with Casey's and John Deere, which also has a plant in Ankeny, he said.

More on Ankeny

Ankeny, in Polk County, has a population of 51,567, according to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau. Some of the major employers in Ankeny are Casey's, Deere and Co. and Tone's Spices, according to Roger Pointer, president of the Iowa Aviation Heritage Museum.

If you go

What: Iowa Aviation Heritage Museum

Where: 3704 SE Convenience Blvd., Ankeny

Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, or by appointment, from April 1 to Nov. 1.

Contact: Call (515) 964-4515 or go to iowaaviationheritagemuseum.webs.com.

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