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Dale Earnhardt Jr. to retire from NASCAR following 2017

Air Force One planes to start tours again at Air Force museum

A National Museum of the U.S. Air Force hangar that is home to historic presidential jets and record-breaking experimental aircraft will reopen Thursday after a nearly six-month closure, but with fewer days to visit during the week.

The research and development and presidential aircraft galleries in Area B of Wright-Patterson will be open four days a week, between Thursdays and Sundays, the museum announced. The hangar had been closed since May 1 because of sequestration-caused budget cuts.

“We took a really hard look at this and the best combination for us given where we are on funding is to keep the galleries open on higher traffic says,” said Museum Director John “Jack” Hudson, a retired Air Force lieutenant general.

The main complex will be open to the public seven days a week, except major holidays.

The hangar’s closure saved the museum about $133,000, according to spokesman Rob Bardua. The museum estimates it will save $1,700 a week in utility costs with the reduced hours.

Hudson said the hangar may temporarily open more days in the weeks ahead to accommodate anticipated crowds next month to see the presidential jet that carried President John F. Kennedy’s body back to Washington, D.C., after his assassination in Dallas, Texas. Nov. 22, 2013. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death.

“We do get and have gotten more questions and indications of interest,” Hudson said.

Visitors will be able to board a bus on a first-come, first-served basis at the main complex to travel through another base gate to get to the hangar. A government-issued photo ID is required for adults. Disabled patrons should contact the museum at (937) 255-3286 to make transportation arrangements for a visit, Bardua said.

Next door, the research and development gallery is home to the mammoth XB-70 Valkyrie, a Mach 3-capable experimental bomber flight tested in the 1960s, and the hypersonic X-15 rocket plane that skirted the edge of space, among other flying craft.

The museum reopened Oct. 17 to seven day-a-week operations once the partial federal government shutdown ceased. The popular tourist attraction drew 1.2 million visitors last year.

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