By Rebecca Brock

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Iconic aircraft at nuclear museum restored by Sandia volunteers

Thanks to an ongoing collaboration with researchers at Sandia, historical aircraft at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History including the B-29 bomber and the B-52B Stratofortress have recently been restored with innovative solar lighting systems, illuminating the iconic aircraft at night.

“The solar lighting really adds to the experience for our visitors,” says Jerry Hanks, restoration coordinator at the museum’s Heritage Park. “Our goals are to preserve history and for our visitors to have a great experience. Our huge partnership with Sandia has made this restoration happen.”

Sandia researcher Alfred Lorber (5531) has spent hundreds of hours coordinating the solar engineering project that began two years ago. Alfred says, “Our goal has been to make the aircraft displays more dynamic and as realistic as possible. What we all have in common here is a love of airplanes and a belief that the history must be preserved.”

Alfred and his 15-year-old daughter, Marlene, above, have volunteered hundreds of hours at the museum. (Photo courtesy of Alfred Lorber)

The sophisticated solar power system also saves the museum the expense of electricity bills to run the lights.

Sandia’s solar evaluation group led by Bruce King (6112) donated the solar panels, and has offered technical advice and support.

Bruce says the restoration project is rewarding. “I drive by the museum every day on my way into work. It is honestly a sense of pride for me to see the displays grow and develop,” he says.

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History is the first museum in the country to install solar systems into aircraft, Jerry says. “Other museums are looking to us as an example. Working with Sandia volunteers, we are paving the way,” says Jerry.

Another big motivation for Sandia volunteers, Alfred says, is enthusing the next generation. “We want to inspire the kids. When you go out there and touch a B-29, it’s pretty amazing. It’s a lot better than just reading about one,” he says.

Alfred volunteers at the museum alongside his 15-year-old daughter, Marlene. “My daughter says she wants to go to the Air Force Academy. We share a love of aircraft. For the two of us, this has been the ultimate father-daughter experience.”