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AIR MUSEUM TO STAY PUT, DISPLAY A 'JENNY'

The Niagara Aerospace Museum will stay in Summit Park Mall for now, said Raymond T. O'Keefe, the museum's new executive director. And with a new lease on life, the museum intends to add to its collection a vintage 1917 airplane. The museum's lease with the mall has been extended indefinitely, O'Keefe said. It was to expire July 15, leaving museum trustees scrambling for a new home. Museum officials still want to find a new location for the collection of aircraft and aviation artifacts, but for now the pressure is off, said O'Keefe.

A Curtiss "Jenny" -- the same model that carried the nation's first scheduled airmail -- has been discovered in a barn in Zanesville, Ohio.

"This is a genuine relic," said the museum's resident historian, Richard Byron. "We were amazed to find one still in existence."

The price tag: $68,000.

For more than 30 years, the plane has been sitting in a barn on a farm owned by father and son Paul and Tony Morozowsky.

As well as carrying the country's first scheduled airmail, Curtiss Jennys were used as training aircraft for legendary aviators Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, said Kirk House, the director and curator of the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport in the Finger Lakes area.

About 95 percent of the U.S. and Canadian pilots in World War I were trained in Curtiss Jennys, he said.

The plane was also the aircraft of choice in the 1920s for barnstormers, the exhibition flying artists who walked on wings and buzzed barns in the Midwest, House said.

More than 7,000 Curtiss Jenny, single-engine biplanes were made between 1915 and the late 1940s, most of them at the Curtiss plant in Buffalo, he said. Made out of wood, wire and fabric, most no longer exist, said House.

At 72 acres, the former Curtiss plant on Elmwood Avenue was the largest airplane factory in the world at the time, said Byron.

Museum lawyers are currently negotiating with mall owner Haywood Whichard, and details of the lease extension and any future moves are being kept under wraps, said Paul D. Faltyn, museum co-founder and vice president of the board of trustees.

The museum leases the space for $6,000 a month from Whichard, a North Carolina real estate investor.

The aerospace museum occupies 80,000 square feet in the rear of the Summit Park Mall, but only 50,000 square feet can be used because the roof leaks, O'Keefe said. Plastic tarpaulins and five-gallon cans are being used to protect the exhibits.

The cost to repair the roof would run at least $400,000, according to mall management.

The museum was promised a $1 million by Buffalo ophthalmologist and aviation enthusiast Dr. Elizabeth Olmsted Ross last April, but the gift is to be used for the museum to buy a new facility.

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