On a recent overnight in Kansas City, I got to visit the TWA Museum. The museum is located at 10 Richards Road at the Bob Wheeler Downtown Kansas City Airport (KMKC). The all volunteer staff, mostly made up of former employees, have become the curators of the largest repository of all things TWA. Their love and enthusiasm for the former airline is infectious. For a twelve dollar entrance fee, I got a personal two and a half hour tour of the entire museum from a retired TWA pilot.

The museum’s stated mission is “to preserve and celebrate the extraordinary legacy of Trans World Airlines (TWA), educate visitors about its pioneering spirit and contributions to aviation history, and to inspire future generations.”

The museum has become a repository of a dizzying variety of memorabilia from cockpit procedures trainers, to fine china service sets used in first class cabins, retirement plaques, training boards, replicas of classrooms and more. It is all laid out in a logical order, taking you from the inception of the airline to its once dominance of the domestic and international airways and to its eventual demise. You really get a sense of what it was like to be a pilot or a flight attendant for this once great airline.

One of my favorite parts was the cockpit procedures trainers of the Boeing 707, 727, DC-9 and Lockheed L-1011. These are basically mock ups of real cockpits with moving switches and lights. It was and still is a cheap way for airlines to familiarize their pilots with what they will be flying without having to put them in the real planes right away. I was amazed at how advanced the L-1011 cockpit was. It was an airliner conceived in the 1960’s but with a cockpit that looked almost as modern as today’s Boeing 787. Those Lockheed designers were way ahead of their time.

If you are in the Kansas City area, I highly recommend a visit. Also, and the museum staff did not ask me to write this, if you have some TWA memorabilia and are looking to donate it, look no further that the TWA museum. You can find out more at twamuseum.org.