By BRIAN WALKER
COEUR d'ALENE ó The Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center will land at the Coeur d'Alene Airport.
Steven Kjergaard, airport director, told Kootenai County commissioners on Monday that the museum will move into a hangar at the end of Cessna Drive as a temporary home.
"They're hoping to have public viewing available June 1, but they don't have a hard date," Kjergaard said.
Kjergaard said the museum operators would also eventually like to have the collection at a permanent location at the airport, and that's the hope of airport officials as well.
"We've been in conversations with them for six or seven months (about the temporary location), and it was just a matter of us finding them a space at the airport (to lease) to fit their needs and find a workable solution for the time being," Kjergaard said.
Rachel Schwam, the museum's director, wrote in a letter to museum supporters: "By obtaining this new location, the museum will be able to continue to stay open for years to come and serve the public, and we will continue our mission to educate visitors about the historic contributions of aviators and innovators who have helped create modern technology, and celebrate these individuals who have forever changed the way we live."
The museum is currently located in a hangar-like facility on a ranch near Sagle, south of Sandpoint. It was founded by Dr. Forrest Bird and features aircraft dating from pre-World War I to the present. It also includes vintage cars and exhibits of inventions. It offers learning programs for all ages.
"It will be a great asset to the airport," Kjergaard said. "People from all over the world go to it. It will be an important educational piece for the airport."
Bird, a renowned inventor, died at 94 in 2015. Just two months later, his wife, Pamela Riddle Bird, and two friends were killed in a small plane crash near Hope.
"The Birds were adamant that they wanted the museum to stay in Idaho and specifically North Idaho," said Phil Cummings, the airport's deputy director. "We're glad we found a temporary home for them."
The Birds opened the museum near their home in 2007.
Forrest Bird invented the modern respirator that is credited with saving thousands of lives. He also developed a World War II fighter pilot regulator that allowed pilots to reach an altitude of 40,000 feet, giving them an advantage during fighting.
He flew a variety of aircraft for nearly 80 years and served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Bird collected aircraft, classic cars and motorcycles, and pieces of aviation history.
Cummings said that by moving to a public site, it will open grant opportunities for the museum to find a permanent home.
"They're not able to obtain federal assistance at a private airport," Cummings said.
Cummings said airport staff will make some minor adjustments with fencing to pave the way for the museum, but public access is already available.
"There's nothing insurmountable," Cummings said. "We look forward to having the museum at the airport."
To volunteer at the museum, email Schwam, Pamela Bird's daughter, at: Rachel@birdaviationmuseum.com.