Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Douglas H. Owens is a passionate man who quietly, but eloquently, spoke of his passion during a recent presentation to the Education and Workforce Development Committee of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.
Called out of retirement
Owens spent 33 years in the Air Force, which included service as vice commander of the Air Force Air Education and Training Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. The command is responsible for 12 main operating bases, more than 67,000 active-duty, Reserve, Guard, civilians and contractors, and more than 1,300 trainer, fighter and mobility aircraft. AETC graduates approximately 250,000 students in its education and training programs annually.
Owens and his wife planned on spending a comfortable retirement in the Texas Hill Country in Boerne when he took off the uniform in 2013. Then came the call in 2016. A new Lone Star Flight Museum was being built at Houston’s Ellington Airport. The $38 million, 138,000 sq. ft. museum would include two large hangars for 15 to 20 featured aircraft, flight line access, class and meeting rooms, and a 250-seat auditorium. The museum needed a CEO.
After a lifetime of service to his country, would he be willing to take on such a massive new challenge? By September, Owens and his wife found themselves adapting to life in Houston. "We made a lifetime commitment to come here and be a part of this. This is that exciting for us,” he explained.
Education to be central theme of Lone Star Flight Museum
Education will be a central theme of the new museum. It will feature an immersive aviation learning center similar to the one at the Seattle Museum of Flight that focuses in on science, technology, engineering and math.
There are the only two such learning centers in the country. Groups of 20-40 students will undergo a two-hour curriculum in a small hangar which will house a Mooney donated airplane and 10 flight simulators that can be configured in a multitude of ways at a multitude of educational levels.
Owens said, "When we open up the new facility, it will be all about education, all about inspiration – inspiring young people to futures of promise and purpose. Our clientele will be about 1.2 million young people in Houston, and we are absolutely thrilled.
"We are looking to partner with ISDs to provide an experience that will fill gaps in curriculum, and on top of that, our young people will have a great time at the museum. We’re going to focus on the fourth, fifth and sixth graders, because it is that group of young people that still has the twinkle in their eye.”
Curriculum designed at three levels
The facility will offer instruction in the basics of flight, weather and flight training in order to prepare student visitors to build a flight plan for an "out and back” from Ellington to Galveston. They will perform a preflight walk around a functional Mooney airplane, which will be deliberately configured with operational problems that the students have to identify. The curriculum is designed at three levels – elementary, middle school and high school.
Owens said, "When the students finish with that flight, they will have learned a little about physics, geometry, and algebra without ever uttering one of those words. They’ll leave that learning center with a smile on their faces.”
When complete, the new Lone Star Flight Museum will feature two large hangars, Heritage and Waltrip, named for museum founder Bob Waltrip, a Houston businessman and founder of Service Corporation International, whose private aircraft collection became the original basis of the museum.
The aircraft that are making the move from the current location of the museum in Galveston include a B-17 Flying Fortress, a North American B-25, P-47 Thunderbolt, as well as Boeing Stearman and PT 19 Fairchild military trainers. "Most of our fleet flies. We will have a significant shop that will allow us to continue to do the fabrication that keeps those planes flying,” said Owens.
Texas Aviation Hall of Fame finds new home
The museum will also be home to the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame located within the Heritage Gallery, which offers a chronological walk through time and the evolution of aviation. Owens concluded, "The museum represents our aviation heritage on one hand and then the future and promise of our young people to carry on the traditions that got us to where we are today.”
Lone Star Flight Museum is scheduled to open on Sept. 1, 2017.
Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Douglas H. Owens (l) is the CEO of the new Lone Star Flight
Museum, which is scheduled to open on Sept. 1, 2017, at Ellington Airport. Shown with him
are Katie Jackman, vice president of Marketing, Sales and Communications, and Kenneth
Morris, a former Navy aircrewman, who is director of Education.