Illinois air museum plans to close over finances

A 1940s postcard from Chanute Field in Rantoul, Ill. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

RANTOUL, Ill. (AP) – An eastern Illinois museum that catalogs the history of a long-closed Air Force base and houses dozens of planes plans to close at the end of the year.

Leaders of the Chanute Air Museum in Rantoul say they can’t afford to stay open, The News-Gazette in Champaign reported.

The museum on the former Chanute Air Force base 15 miles north of Champaign opened in 1994, soon after the base’s closure. It receives financial support from the Village of Rantoul, but village officials say the town can no longer afford the bills.

“This was not an easy decision for anybody,” said Nancy Kobel, the museum board’s president.

Village administrator Jeff Fiegenschuh said the airport’s annual utility costs of $350,000 contributed to even more sizable yearly losses. The museum had a monthly operating budget of $10,000, half of which covered rent payments to Rantoul.

“The airport was losing money,” he said. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to our tenants and the airport and the residents.”

The departure of a sporting goods manufacturer and another tenant that leased an airport hangar hastened the closing.

Curator Mark Hanson said the museum’s 30 military planes are on loan from the federal government. He expects the military will try to find new homes for the planes.

The museum’s collection also includes archival photos and documents, books and magazines, military uniforms, aircraft instruments and tools.


Information from: The News-Gazette,

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AP-WF-04-25-15 1659GMT