Roy Thompson holds one of the model airplanes that will be on display in the Air Services Museum, which is scheduled to open in late February.

Colorado Springs and the aviation industry share a history as deep and rich as the blue sky itself.
From the establishment of the U.S. Air Force Academy in the 1950s and the boom in aviation businesses it brought to the high-tech surveillance systems of NORAD, which guards the airspace over the United States and Canada, the city has long had its sights set on flight.
So has Roy Thompson.
A former Canadian Air Force pilot, Thompson has been collecting airplane memorabilia since his youth.
Wings from planes, propellers, uniforms and an assortment of books and posters made their way into Thompson’s home and garage, where they were stored for years – a fact that Thompson’s wife, Margaret, learned to live with, and later love.
Now, Thompson and some friends and business associates who share a passion for aviation want to share their collectables through the Air Services Museum, a tribute to the history and achievement of pilots and aviation businesses from around the world.
A nearly 16,000 square-foot building at 425 E. Fillmore St. will house the museum, which will include items from people who already heard about the collection. The museum, which is still under construction, is expected to open in late February.
“People have a longing for air flight and the adventure of it,” Thompson said.
Thompson envisions that visitors will be able to listen to an audio history of aviation, sit in a real cockpit for a flight simulation and get a bird’s eye view of a miniature model airport by stepping into an air traffic control tower.
Models of the planes of yesteryear and modern commercial jets will line the museum’s walls. Mannequins will display pilots’ uniforms, and relics of an industry that forever changed travel and tourism will be on display.
There will be a store and a theater, which will show aviation and history films, and the museum will be home to a few full-size planes.
The museum will nearly double in size when a neighboring business vacates its space. Thompson said the building’s owner, Darwin Faarborg, cut him a great deal on the space.
Thompson has high expectations for what the museum will become. He envisions the museum as a place where school children will visit on field trips and where students can come after school to build model airplanes and be mentored by volunteers.
“We’re really going to have to be part of the community if we’re going to do this,” Thompson said.
The type of museum Thompson has in mind may be a first for Colorado Springs, but it is not the first museum that Thompson has helped launch. He helped create a maritime museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that still exists today.
For Thompson’s aviation museum vision to become a reality, it will take some generous donations and grants.
Brinah Acton of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Colorado Springs said she thinks Thompson’s chances of getting funding are pretty good.
“It’s very exciting to see what they’ve done with that building in such a short period of time,” she said.
Acton said that Thompson’s background, ability to attract unique historical items and ideas for unique displays will get the attention of funding organizations.
She said Thompson has plans to set up displays in tribute to women in aviation and the Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first regiment of black military pilots.
Susan Griffin, a manager with the Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Akron, Ohio, said there is a growing national competition for grant money. The Akron center and the Springs center are not affiliated.
Griffin said, since Sept. 11, 2001, the nonprofit industry has been flooded with startup organizations and most charitable foundations are reporting increased requests for money.
“The best bet for someone looking for funding might be to look to private donors,” Griffin said.
Up to this point, Thompson’s museum project has been somewhat of a model for a grassroots effort to attract funding, and he estimates that about $300,000 has been spent on the project.
The seed money for the museum came from the Kissinger Family Foundation. Ent Federal Credit Union, Wells Fargo Bank and Aspen Diversified Industries also have made contributions.
People have been dropping off contributions. Computers, chairs and a litany of items of varying value have been part of the offerings – someone dropped off antique fishing poles last week.
“They said sell these and use the money however you want,” Thompson said.
Armed with a concise business plan and information from the Springs Center for Nonprofit Excellence, Thompson devotes much of his time to soliciting corporation donations. A dry-erase board in the museum’s administrative offices charts the date and responses from the 65 corporations queried.
Thompson has little doubt that money for the project will be discovered or that donors will offer support.
“Only four have said no, and some have said try back next year,” he said. “That’s a good sign.”
Thompson said the response indicates that funding organizations want to see how stable the museum’s operation will be, and that’s why he isn’t wasting any time getting things established.
“We wanted to show we’re doing something and not just sitting around trying to get money,” he said.
Rob.Larimer@csbj.com