Visitors at the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum at Paine Field in Everett in 2018. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Visitors at the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum at Paine Field in Everett in 2018. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum will close — for now

The fate of the vintage aircraft museum that featured Paul Allen’s private collection is up in the air.

EVERETT — The Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum at Paine Field will close for an undetermined period due to the unending uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The museum, launched by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is a showcase for Allen’s private collection of World War II and Cold War aircraft, vintage tanks, motorcycles, military vehicles, combat armor and peculiarities of war.

“The COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating effect on cultural organizations, especially those that rely on public gatherings and special events to achieve their mission,” the museum’s board said in a statement. The Friends of Flying Heritage, a non-profit organization, operates the museum and sponsors public events throughout the year, including Tankfest Northwest and summer camps for school-age children. Those events and others are canceled.

“Given the uncertainty, we have made the very difficult decision to suspend all operations of Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum for now,” the board said. “Our mission has always been to celebrate humanity’s spirit during the world conflicts of the 20th century by returning the rare aircraft, vehicles and artifacts within the museum to working condition, enabling the public to experience them firsthand. The current global situation is making it difficult for us to serve our mission.”

The announcement leaves the popular visitor site’s fate up in the air. “We will spend the months ahead reassessing if, how and when to reopen,” the group said.

In coming weeks, the museum board will release information about ticket, membership and donation refunds.

The Flying Heritage museum and other properties are owned by Seattle-based Vulcan Inc. Vulcan said this week it planned to shut down two divisions, Vulcan Arts and Entertainment and Vulcan Productions, by the end of the year, according to a news release. In Seattle, that means the closure of the iconic Cinerama theater downtown, The Seattle Art Fair and other venues.

And like Flying Heritage, the future of those attractions isn’t clear, Vulcan said.

The collection opened to the public in 2004 at an Arlington airfield location. Four years later, in 2008, it moved to Paine Field in Everett, where it’s housed in three hangars at 3407 109th Street SW.

Exhibits focus on historic aircraft, tanks, military ambulances and other technologies from the U.S., Britain, Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union. Many are operational. On-site mechanics could often be glimpsed working on restoration.

Other exhibits showcase peculiar wartime technologies, such as World War II “pigeon parachutes” used to deploy carrier pigeons behind enemy lines and British-made exploding “rat dummies” intended to ignite when tossed into a fire or furnace.

The collection also includes World War II-era Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a German Opel Super 6 staff car — the frequent target of Allied fighter bomber pilots because its occupants were often high-ranking German military officers. A mock-up of the two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, Little Boy and Fat Man, serves as a sober reminder of the dawn of the atomic age and is part of the “Why War: The Causes of Conflict” exhibit.

The museum recently listed its fully operational, fully restored MiG-29 for sale. Allen acquired the two-seat Soviet-era fighter jet in 2005.

Allen, 65, died in October 2018 from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He left behind a vast estate that includes property, artwork and venture capital investments, as well as the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers. In 2018, Forbes estimated his net worth at more than $20 billion.

Allen left his mark on the region through an array of cultural and philanthropic projects, among them the Flying Heritage museum.

Allen wasn’t married and had no children. His sister, Jody Allen, was named executor and trustee of his estate.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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