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The Honolulu Advertiser

By William Cole

Posted on: Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tower still waiting on repairs

 • Buglers answer the call
Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A national fundraising campaign is under way to fix the aircraft control tower next to the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island.

Advertiser library photo

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Back in October 2008, the Pacific Aviation Museum-Pearl Harbor was hoping to sign a lease with the Navy by the end of that year to take over and start renovating the iconic red- and white-striped aircraft control tower that stands next to the museum on Ford Island.

That didn't happen.

Nearly a year later, in September 2009, the museum was hopeful for a lease by the end of '09.

Still no lease.

Now the nonprofit museum is hopeful for a lease by about March. Navy officials here figure it might take a little longer than that, but are ready to ink the deal.

"The Pacific Aviation Museum is very concerned with the safety and cosmetic (aspects) of that tower, and we have the impetus, and we have the funding now, to fix all that, and we want to do it," said Richard "Scotty" Scott, the museum's director of operations.

The holdup now is Pentagon bureaucracy. A turnover in the Navy's installations office has delayed the control tower lease a bit more.

The 158-foot-tall, riveted steel tower is not only important historically, but as a potential beacon for Pacific Aviation Museum visitors.

The crash of the economy hurt the museum, but a shift in ticketing for the Arizona Memorial during construction of a new visitor center to a joint ticketing operation at the Bowfin Submarine Museum where Pacific Aviation Museum tickets also are sold ended up giving a big boost to the air museum.

Public access to the top of the control tower would provide a bird's-eye view of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack sites in Pearl Harbor and make the museum a must-see destination.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, put $3.8 million into the 2010 defense bill for the Pacific Aviation Museum to start renovating the control tower.

Officials estimate it will probably cost close to $10 million to fully renovate the rusting tower. A $100 million national fund-raising campaign is under way to fix the tower and pay for big museum expansions on Ford Island.

The museum restored Hangar 37, is working out of Hangar 79, and has plans for Hangar 54.

There is thought being given to putting an elevator inside what was a water tank to give visitors access to the crow's nest and control room on top of the barber pole tower.

There also would have to be a lot of sandblasting, metal stabilization and painting. Plans also include moving offices and a research center into the two-story operations building that sits at the base of the tower.

At the time of the Dec. 7 attack, the water tank tower was standing and the platform on top had been started. It was a dark color, but by 1943 it had acquired the familiar red and white color.

Getting to the top would be special indeed. Now that would be the ticket.