, Derry, New Hampshire

Life & Times

February 6, 2014

History flying high at Londonderry museum

Aviation Museum offers treasure trove of state history

LONDONDERRY — Granite State aviation history is flying high in Londonderry.

Visitors who stop by the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire can learn all about the rich history trail blazed by many state aviators.

It's this look into New Hampshire's flying past that puts the museum on the "603 Reasons" list for what makes the state special.

The museum is under the watchful eye of the New Hampshire Aviation Society, a nonprofit group dedicated to the history of aviation in the Granite State.

That history is rich and could fill volumes, according to museum interim executive director Wendell Berthelsen.

Berthelsen has volunteered at the museum for several years. He discovered the museum by chance while visiting a nearby mall and heard that a museum focused on aviation was located nearby.

He came to see the place for himself and never left.

The museum is housed in an art deco-styled former 1937 airport terminal that had been moved from its original location at the north end of the Manchester airport field to the current location on the southeast side of Londonderry.

The building also has a tower once used for airport observation, Berthelsen said, another feature giving the museum a unique look while holding many years of how flight started and continues to this day.

Inside the building, exhibits and artifacts tell the stories of New Hampshire aviators, homegrown pilots and adventurers.

There's the story of Derry native and first American in space Alan B. Shepard who, as a young boy, would ride his bike to watch planes take off and land at the Manchester airport. He eventually got a job sweeping out hangars in exchange for some flight lessons.

Early flying maneuvers included the tales of Thaddeus Lowe of Jefferson, who flew surveillance missions in his balloon over Confederate troops during the Civil War.

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