One of America’s largest aviation museums can be found in an airport just outside of Liberal, Kansas. The Mid-America Air Museum has a collection of more than 100 planes, a tribute to both the site’s history and the life of its greatest benefactor.
The museum is located at the edge of town, next to Liberal Airport. The airport was first used as an Army airfield during World War II, specifically as a training base for B-24 Liberator pilots. After the war, the base was converted to a regional airport. In the 1970s, the building that now houses the museum was a Beech Aircraft manufacturing plant, and a few of the airplanes built there remain on display, including NC-6, one of the few remaining Beechcraft Starships.
After the factory closed, the city moved to preserve the building and preserve Liberal’s aviation heritage. But most of the museum’s collection is composed of the result of one man’s hobby. Col. Tom A. Thomas Jr. was a retired Air Force pilot who served in 78 combat missions during World War II. After the war, his successful concrete business afforded him the opportunity to collect and fly vintage aircraft. On his 65th birthday, he flew 65 separate planes over the span of eight hours. In 1997, near the end of his life, he donated his collection of 72 planes to the museum, which came to more than $3.1 million worth of aircraft.
Today, these and other aircraft are on display at the museum, crammed nearly nose-to-tail. Together, this cavalcade of planes tells the story of Kansas’s military and commercial aviation industry, and the human passion for flight.
Know Before You Go
The Mid-America Air Museum is open year-round, and tours are also available. Please check the website or call for updated admission fees and hours.