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Sean Saunders – Director Of The American Helicopter Museum And Education Center

By Admin | November 24, 2007

The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center was founded by Peter Wright, a member of the famed Flying Tigers, in 1996 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. It is now the largest helicopter museum in the world, with approximately 100 helicopters. With the recent death of Wright, the museum has a new guiding light in director in Sean Saunders. We recently caught up with him.


How long have you been director of the museum?

I have been the Executive Director of The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center for two months.

Prior to this position, I was the Executive Director of The Second Mile in southeast region of Pennsylvania. The majority of my work experience was as a Government Bond Trader on Wall Street and in designing systems for the trading of investment securities.

I have received formal non-profit training from the Chester County Leadership Connection and am the only graduate of both their Executive Board and Executive Director Management Programs. I have taken various non-profit classes at Lasalle and AFP.

Do you have any formal training in aviation?

My fascination with helicopters developed as a result of winning a computer programming contest in middle school. First place prize was a helicopter ride around Manhattan. The pilot was retiring and wanted to go out with a bang.

He flew my under the Brooklyn bridge, between the Twin Towers and got me so close the Lady Liberty in the harbor, I thought I could reach out and touch her. I made sure I won that contest the next two years.

As a youth spending summers in Ireland, I watched in awe as helicopters were employed to construct army barracks in the northern part of the island.

Then as a teenager, I witnessed the power and destructive force of helicopters as a weapon of war. As an adult, I was fortunate to be in a position to use helicopters routinely for short business trips and to entertain clients. I have been bringing my children to the Helicopter Museum for years.

How many people a year visit the helicopter museum?

We have been averaging about 30,000 visitors to the Museum a year. This year we will blow those numbers away.

In addition to the increase in daily visitors, we have had an exponential growth in use of the Museum for school trips, birthday parties, large catered affairs, and for use as a unique venue for meetings and presentations. Psst, want to have a surprise party for a special someone? Come in for a visit.

Why is the helicopter museum in West Chester, Pennsylvania?

The Delaware Valley is the foundation of the helicopter industry. It is a Philadelphia story. Your readers will have to visit us to find out why.

We are an Education Center and a Museum. So come on down and learn about the history of rotor craft aviation and take a look into the future The pioneers of the industry were here and we believe the next generation of pilots and engineers are here also. We are investing our resources in the development of curriculum for students of all ages.

Where do the funds come from to run the museum? Do you do active fundraising?

The Museum was founded by individuals with a passion for rotor craft and the vision to create a unique experience for all. Our initial funding came from those with vested interests in the success of rotor flight and has grown into us being funded by our growing membership, admissions, corporations, foundations, and the generosity of individuals.

We are also applying for financial support from local entities, state and federal funding. We are actively fundraising and seeking partnership opportunities. We have great plans for the future and have a design for the expansion of the Museum. You will hear more about this in the near future.

Do you people come to do research at the museum? Do you have collections?

We are always receiving inquiries about particular rotor craft and information relating to specifics periods of development of the industry. Do you know why the controls are on the right side of the craft? Come and watch the DVD.

Our collections of rotor craft include 38 machines from the Pitcairn Cierva AutoGiro on loan from the Smithsonian National Air and
Space Museum to the V-22 Osprey. We have a variety of civilian and military helicopters. Take a look at our website, www.helicoptermuseum.org

You just had a really successful aviation day with an aerial show. Can you describe the day and what activities were included?

Two weeks ago, we had our 11th Annual RotorFest, the only all Helicopter Airshow of this size in the world. We had over 11,000 visitors and are trying to determine if this was the largest public all Helicopter Airshow attendance in the world to date.

What was the Helicopter Museum’s reaction to the recent scathing article in a national newsmagazine against the Osprey?

We immediately posted the article on the V-22 Osprey on the Museum’s bulletin board and the subsequent rebuttals that followed. We received letters at the Museum both in favor of the article and those with a differing opinion.

We owe (the author) a world of thanks, as we are the only Museum in the world with a V-22 Osprey on display. We have had many visitors come from near and far specifically to see “Allison” and view our multi-media display.

Disclosure: the families of founder Peter Wright and the interviewer are related.

Copyright 2007 DailyInterview.com

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