The Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska utilizes over 300,000 square feet of exhibit, education, and event space to educate, inspire, and entertain its guests. Organized in 1959, the original mission of the museum was to commemorate the contributions of the Strategic Air Command, which until 1992 was headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska.
The museum moved to its current location in 1998 upon completion of a new indoor facility. The museum houses an impressive collection of military aircraft and other artifacts, many of which have been restored in the museum's on-site restoration facility. As part of its commitment to education, the museum has recently established a partnership with the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Office of STEM Education to provide cutting-edge educational opportunities for students, teachers, families and adult learners. Traveling exhibits, permanent exhibits and a variety of special events provide additional unique experiences for the museum's members and visitors.
One of the recent projects staff and volunteers have been meticulously working on is the restoration of a former World War II military transport aircraft, which is no easy task. In fact, volunteers have spent three years - the equivalent of 16,500 hours - renovating the C-54 Skymaster. Finishing touches, such as adding on stickers, were the last details made before being unveiled to the public on November 16, 2015.
This Douglas C-54 Skymaster first flew in 1942 as a military transport aircraft during World War II. It is known for its role in the China Burma India Theater of Operations, delivering personnel, supplies and fuel to combat forces in China for operations against the Japanese. Later on, the plane was used in the Korean War to pick up wounded servicemen. The C-54 was also an airliner and was one of the first types of aircraft to carry the President of the United States.
The one at the museum was used by the United States Army Air Force in 1945 and was eventually converted to an EC-54 - it became one of only nine JC-54s used for missile tracking and nose cone recovery. The plane was retired from service in January of 1970. Starting in mid-November, visitors at the museum are able to get an up-close look at the aircraft, viewing it from all angles. "We believe open barriers allow guests to visualize the aircraft from a unique perspective in order to gain an appreciation for the experiences of the brave men who flew the aircraft," said Brian York, the museum's curator.


Restoring a Flying Icon

The man leading the restoration effort is Mark Hamilton, aircraft restoration manager at the museum. One of his top priorities was making sure he got the correct paint color match. Hamilton worked with Martin Senour and NAPA to get the job done. "Their salespeople were extremely helpful," said Hamilton. "I tried a lot of spray bombs and aerosols, but the color wasn't matching up to the original. Martin Senour understood that it's all in the details and not only met our paint color demands, but they donated the paint for the aircraft."
The C-54 was painted with seven gallons of Martin Senour's white PRISM® 3.5 VOC Acrylic Polyurethane Single Stage Color (65 Series) on the tail and upper fuselage, and eight gallons of grey on the wings, lower fuselage and control surfaces. "I really liked the coverage and the gloss," Hamilton added.
PRISM is extremely durable, provides a high gloss finish and is resistant to chemicals and solvents. It can be air-dried or force-dried. PRISM also demonstrates graffiti resistant properties that makes it ideal for industries such as: public transportation, concrete mixers, waste disposal, beverage and Department of Transportation vehicles. It offers excellent hiding and is available in thousands of colors.
While the C-54 has been completed, the work for Hamilton and the volunteers at the Strategic Air & Space Museum is never over. New aircrafts are constantly arriving at the museum for the team to transform from disrepair to original condition. It's hard work, but they pride themselves on preserving artifacts and educating the community.
To learn more about the C-54, please visit the Strategic Air & Space Museum website at