CENTENNIAL | The second campus for Wings Over the Rockies has been cleared for takeoff.

The Lowry-based aviation museum is set to open the hangar doors to its Boeing Blue Sky Gallery on July 21. The 19,000 square foot museum dedicated to the future of aviation is just the first of several additions planned for Wings’ Exploration of Flight campus down at the Centennial Airport.

While the Blue Sky Gallery isn’t as an expansive in size as its sister museum in Lowry, the experience for guests are anything but narrow in scope. Everything is hands on, from virtual reality flight experiences, to simulators that are so high tech they will allow pilots to recertify their credentials. But not everything is computer simulators. The museum even sports a custom built wooden maze that teaches the importance of communication between pilots and flight towers.

Along with the high- and low-tech exhibits, the museum puts guests right next to the active runway at the airport and will even give tours of the airport field.  

The goal is to create an immersive experience that brings every element of modern aviation for guests, said Chuck Stout, exhibitions manager.

“Not everyone will connect with every element of aviation. Some people will not want to be a pilot,” Stout said. “But the exhibits all come together to show every aspect of aviation and give everyone a chance to find that element that connect to.”

The campus will eventually house the Black Sky Gallery dedicated to the future of space travel, the Colorado Skies Academy charter middle school that will give students project-based learning through an aviation lens, along with training and education centers for aviation mechanics and operations.

John Barry, CEO of Wings and former superintendent of Aurora Public Schools, sees the Blue Sky Gallery as the first step in a massive vision. The museums, the schools and other aspects will create what he and others have referred to as “aerospace alley” south of Aurora, that will help the aerospace industry by providing the next generation of leaders and provide a replicable example to the rest of the country.

“Our two messages about this place is its uniqueness in the nation and the ability for it to be replicated (anywhere),” Barry said.

Studies have shown the aerospace industry will need more than 2 million new people to enter the workforce in the next four years, Barry said. That means pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers and other roles. That challenge represents an opportunity for this new “aerospace alley” and others that follow in its path to inspire and teach the next generation.

“It’s a pretty bold and I think audacious vision we want to be able to do. But I will also mention it’s not as big as some people have challenged us to do,” Barry said. “(A backer) told us we’re not thinking big enough.”