Wil Shellenberger, President

Shifting from the rearview mirror to the road ahead! With the vaccine rollouts, there is finally reason for optimism. A challenging year still lies ahead. It will demand of us the same adaptability, perseverance and generosity that stood us well last year.

After three months, the museum’s doors opened again on 17 February. While visitor counts are relatively low, they are increasing. And it just feels good having people in the building absorbing Naval Aviation History and learning about the role of small Pacific Northwest towns in that history. With progress being made fighting COVID 19, Washington State is moving to a Phase 3 recovery plan that allows museums to host up to 50% of capacity. Additionally, with food service facilities expanding their capacity, we are looking forward to resuming the museum’s Monthly Speaker Luncheon series, perhaps as early as the end of April. This summer we look forward to opening our PBY-5A, “Gigi” to visitors on weekends. While no firm commitments have been made, the prospects for one or two air show type events later this summer look promising. “Normal” remains a long way off, but we will continue to adapt to fulfill the mission and stay safe.

There is also reason for cautious optimism about finding a new museum site. An excellent site has been identified. However, current land use codes do not include museums as an allowed use on this particular property. An application has been submitted to the county to determine whether the current land use code can be interpreted to include building of a museum. This has been a long difficult journey, but we are determined to build a facility that can fully present the rich history of Naval Aviation in the Pacific Northwest.

This optimism must be tempered with the cold realities that COVID 19 will retreat slowly, and many challenges remain ahead, especially financial. Our status as a small, all volunteer museum has disqualified PNWNAM from nearly all of the government assistance programs. The latest multi-trillion dollar package rubbed salt in the wound by denying funds because the seats in our small theater are not secured to the floor. Small museums were essentially ignored.

So, again, we pull our bootstraps up to meet the challenge. Many avenues of fundraising are being explored. This year’s principal fundraising efforts will start with a virtual auction during the week of 8 – 15 May. The Annual Mid-Year Fundraising Appeal will follow during the summer. In late October, assuming that the COVID 19 restrictions allow, the Fourth Annual Celebration of Flight Dinner and Auction will be held as a combination in-person and virtual event. The year will be capped off by the Annual Year-End Fundraising Appeal. We were overwhelmed by your generosity in helping to sustain the museum last year and hope that you will continue to support the Pacific Northwest Naval Air Museum in 2021 as we seek to make it a much better year!

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