World’s largest model airplane comes to Glenville

Special Reports

A piece of aviation history has a new home in Glenville.

Model planes may be reminiscent of childhood, but at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum, adults admire them, too. In fact, one is so special, it’s drawing attention from all over New York.

“The Concorde is very special,” acquisition officer John Panoski said. “It represents a phase of aviation history.”

It all started in 1969 when British Airways flew the first ever supersonic jetliner called The Concorde. The new machine literally hit the tarmac with a boom.

“When the plane like The Concorde would break the sound barrier, there would be that sonic boom that’s caused by the shock waves,” museum VP Kevin Millington said.

The plane was so fast, it flew at twice the speed of sound. It was so popular in the United States that in 2001, British Airways mounted a model in one of the busiest tourist destinations in the country.

“It was in Times Square and 8.5 million people saw it on a daily basis,” project manager Dan Wilson said.

But it was more than just an advertisement. At 100 feet and 25,000 pounds, it was the largest model airplane in history.

“It was something that everybody knew,” Curator of Cradle of Aviation Museum Joshua Stoiff said. “If you look online at pictures, it was on top of a brewery in Times Square, and it was one of the strange, odd ball attractions in New York.”

But when the building lease expired in 2001, the model plane was removed from Times Square and the fleet of real Concordes was retired shortly after due to a tragic crash. But aviation lovers couldn’t bear to see the piece of history just fly off.

“We didn’t want to see it destroyed since it is the largest model airplane in the world, and it looks very cool,” Stoiff said.

And so it was stored away at a museum on Long Island for years until some history lovers from the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in Glenville decided to step in.

“We had to cut it up and dismantle it in Long Island and truck it in sections,” Wilson said. “Several truckloads back to Glenville.”

Now, they are proudly reassembling the model Concorde in its new home.

“Albany has their Nipper the Dog, and Glenville is gonna have their Concorde,” museum Pres. Bud Matthews said.

“It’ll be a big job,” Millington said. “As you can see, we have to reassemble about half a dozen pieces of it.”

But the museum staff has some expert help putting the plane back together.

“We have Vietnam vets; we have Korean War vets, Desert Storm vets, and a couple of World War II vets who are still helping us,” Matthews said.

“Everybody here has had some kind of background with aviation whether it’s the Air Force or the Army, and they just want to stay involved with the museum, stay involved with aviation,” Wilson said. “Nobody gets paid here. It’s all volunteers.”

“Coming here is almost like a re-enactment,” Air Force veteran Gary Gershon said. “I’m back to the airplanes which I love.”

The staff hopes The Concorde will be reassembled by next fall, but they said they will take their time enjoying every step of the process.

“You see a plane, yeah, it’s cool,” Isaiah Gershon, 14-year-old volunteer, said. “You learn a little bit about it, and it makes it cooler. But when you actually get to meet people who worked on it, flew it, it makes it so much better.”

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