The New England Air Museum, Tornado of 1979
October 5 - October 27
On October 3, 1979, a strong F4 tornado ripped through Windsor Locks, causing more than $400 million of damage and destroyed almost half the aircraft on display at the Bradley Air Museum (now the New England Air Museum). 40 years on, the New England Air Museum is commemorating the event with a new exhibit “8 Minutes: Bradley Air Museum and the Windsor Locks Tornado of 1979”.
Opening this week and running through June of next year, the exhibit uses photographs, documents, and objects. This exhibit explores not just the tornado’s devastation but also how the local community (specifically the museum) recovered from the tragedy. Located in the lobby of the New England Air Museum, this exhibit is free and will open on Saturday October 5. It will run until June 1, 2020.
Tornadoes were and still are a rare occurrence in Connecticut, particularly one as strong and late in the season as the one that struck that day. It appeared virtually without warning, and passed quickly, but its memory would linger in the minds of those who survived its wrath. The entire state mobilized to provide emergency personnel, supplies, and construction equipment in support of the long-term effort to rebuild the affected area.
The outpouring of sympathy and support extended to the Bradley Air Museum, which was faced with the daunting task of salvaging its usable aircraft and locating a new indoor space to house its exhibits. Thanks to a combination of state funds, private donations, and the hard work of museum staff and volunteers, the museum was finally able to reopen (albeit on a limited basis) in June of 1980, and by the following spring ground had been broken on a new 56-acre location on the opposite side of the airport. Today, the New England Air Museum stands as the largest aviation museum in the northeastern United States, with three exhibit hangars, three storage buildings, and more than 100 historic aircraft.