Sullenberger Aviation Museum




Preserving History and Empowering the Next Generation Through Aviation

Founded in 1992 and located at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the Sullenberger Aviation Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, is home to aircraft and artifacts from the advent of aviation to modern times. The museum’s name honors Captain C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger, who landed Charlotte-bound US Airways Flight 1549 safely in New York City’s Hudson River in 2009. The plane from the flight is the museum’s featured exhibition.
architecture, civil-engineering, electrical-engineering, interior-design, mechanical-engineering, structural-engineering, sustainable-design, universal-design

Project Details

Carolinas Aviation Museum
47,200 square feet
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Rendering of students standing outside the aviation museum next to an airplane .

Sullenberger Aviation Museum Expands — New Exhibits and Focus on STEM Education

After ceasing operations at their leased hangar, museum officials needed help developing a vision and plan for a new facility that could accommodate their growing collection and focus on programming for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Progressive Companies and Australian museum consultant Freeman Ryan Design (FRD) partnered up to design a new campus, incorporating the airport’s original historic hangar (erected circa 1936) and adding new exhibit and educational spaces. The museum is located next to an active runway, allowing visitors to watch and feel the rumble of aircraft taking off and landing.

The new campus incorporates three buildings: a new 7,000-square-foot welcome center, a new 40,200-square-foot exhibit space, and the renovated hangar. Both the main gallery and hangar will be filled with military and private sector aircraft, suspended overhead and featured as floor displays. A large open-air tarmac in the center of the buildings will house larger aircraft.

Progressive Companies designed the entire project using principles of Universal Design, ensuring access for the widest range of visitors.

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“This reimagined museum will serve as a vital resource to help students and adults connect to careers in STEM-based industries, all while showcasing the power and potential of the human imagination through the wonder of flight, and transforming lives and economic vitality in the Carolinas.”
Marc Oken, Sullenberger Aviation Museum Board Chair
Rendering of students listening to a guide while standing outside the aviation museum next to an airplane .
An event like gala happening inside and outside at the aviation museum.

Unleashing the Power of Imagination Through Aviation

The new multi-building campus will offer immersive learning experiences like flight simulators, interactive exhibits, STEM education programs, and unique radio frequency identification (RFID) storytelling of the Carolinas’ past, present, and future in aviation. With its canopy design inspired by aircraft wing structures, the Welcome Building provides an additional STEM-focused educational experience. The building includes a makerspace, allowing visitors to build, explore, and solve puzzles using tools like snap circuits, Lego robotics, and 3D printers. The makerspace will also include a Flight Forward Catalog, which will connect people to career opportunities in STEM-based industries. By including these educational tools, museum leaders hope the redesign will help create more diversity and economic mobility in the next generation of aviators, inspiring and empowering children to pursue careers in STEM, aerospace, and aviation.

“Capt. Sullenberger saved the lives of over a hundred people thanks to his quick thinking and courageous actions spurred by years of specialized training in science, math, and engineering, the combination of which allowed him and his crew to land Flight 1549 safely in the Hudson River,” says Stephen Saucier, museum president.

“Capt. Sullenberger has committed his life to inspiring and educating future generations by elevating the wonder of flight and affirming the importance of STEM learning and equity, all of which mirrors our museum’s mission. Every inch of this new space is designed to expand visitors’ horizons and provide inclusive learning opportunities for all, and we are honored that our new name will reflect that spirit for years to come.”

Drawing Visitors With Sustainable Design

The museum broke ground in September 2022 and is projected to open in summer of 2024. It is expected to draw more than 120,000 visitors annually and connect more than 15,000 students to STEM programming and career development labs.

The project is part of the Duke Energy Design Assistance program, so all buildings have been modeled with overall energy efficiency in mind. Several levels of energy efficiency options were reviewed with museum leadership and the modeling team with appropriate strategies employed to improve each building’s energy use intensity.

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Aircrafts on Display
Aerial rendering of the aviation museum with multiple buildings and airplanes in frame as well as outdoor landscaping.
“Aviation – one of the most transformative industries in the world – has not historically been accessible to our underserved communities, but it is our hope that as more than a collection of aircraft, the Sullenberger Aviation Museum will serve as a vehicle of opportunity to inspire and elevate the next generation of innovators and future heroes.”
Captain Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger III

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