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Air museum welcome in Buffalo If site loses lease, city and tourism officials should attract it downtown

Buffalo ought to turn on the landing lights, and welcome a threatened Niagara Falls aerospace museum to a new home. Western New York's role as an early cradle of aviation is a claim to fame worth celebrating, and Buffalo's emerging push for heritage tourism makes this city a good place to celebrate it.

In Niagara Falls, the Niagara Aerospace Museum is fighting Seneca Nation eviction from its current casino-bordering facility, the second home for the regional aviation collection in its seven years. Niagara still may want to exert a claim, but this museum is worth a recruiting effort by Buffalo government and development officials. In Buffalo, there already is a growing cluster of transportation-related attractions in the downtown-waterfront area, from the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce Arrow Museum to historic ships and harbor destinations. There also are tentative talks toward developing a transportation history complex somewhere on the waterfront, also drawing in the port's role as a railroad hub. While aviation's links to the waterfront are real but marginal the region's claim to a key role in aviation history is spectacular.

This is where engineers developed America's first jet airplane; where the shark-nosed warplanes made famous by the "Flying Tigers" were built; where the Bell X-1 rocket plane Chuck Yeager used to break the sound barrier took shape. It's where Glenn Curtiss set up shop to make the famed "Jenny" biplanes, and where he battled out patent rights in court with the Wright Brothers. It's where early parachutes, seaplanes, missiles and the first commercial helicopter were developed, along with James Bond rocket belts and those air-cushion hydro-skimmers.

The Niagara Aerospace Museum showcase of local aviation artifacts and memorabilia shouldn't be lost to this region. This could be a chance to land a concentrated collection. For Buffalo, that would be an idea well worth exploring.

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