- Barrie Barber Staff Writer
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force closed Saturday after initially opening in the morning in the midst of a federal government shutdown.
Hundreds of people had trekked inside the world’s largest military aviation museum Saturday morning before the closure at 1 p.m.
The fallout was the latest from the federal closure expected to affect thousands of workers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the largest single-site employer in Ohio with an estimated 27,000 military and civilian personnel.
Wright-Patt employees were told to report to work Monday for further instructions on “shutdown activities,” but it was not yet known how many would be furloughed if the partial federal closure continued into the work week.
National Park Service interpretive centers near Huffman Prairie where the Wright brothers perfected the airplane, and the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center in Dayton, were among NPS sites closed Saturday in the region because of the shutdown, although the two properties were open to traffic.
What’s next for the base?
More fallout was expected Monday if the shutdown persists into the work week.
As of Friday, base officials did not have an estimate of how many Wright-Patterson civil service workers might be furloughed. All military personnel, and some civilian employees deemed in “essential” jobs, would be exempt from being sent home temporarily, but would not be paid until Congress passes an appropriations bill, according to the Pentagon.
When the last shutdown struck in 2013, both furloughed workers and those who stayed on the job were reimbursed.
Base authorities have not released further details of the full scope of what might be impacted at Wright-Patterson.
The Child Development Center was scheduled to be open Monday, spokeswoman Marie Vanover said Saturday.
Col. Alden Hilton, commander of the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine which marked its 100th anniversary Friday, said essential classes to train aeromedical flight personnel would continue without interruption.
Hundreds of Air Force reservists scheduled for a monthly drill weekend Jan. 20-21 with the 445th Airlift Wing were expected to proceed because it was previously funded, said Lt. Col. Cynthia Harris, a unit spokeswoman.
Museum to remain closed
Matthew and Leigh Boyce, a married couple, traveled from St. Louis to the Air Force museum hoping it was open despite a partial federal government shutdown that struck midnight Saturday when Congress failed to pass a short-term stopgap funding measure.
“We came into town to see our daughter and this was obviously one of the things we wanted to go to, but we were worried after we heard the news that we weren’t going to be able to get in,” Boyce, 46, said as he and his wife, Leigh, stood in the newest gallery housing iconic presidential planes and one-of-a-kind experimental jets.
“We checked the website that said it might be a possibility that it would not be open because of the shutdown, and we called this morning and they said they didn’t know whether they were even going to be open, but they suggested we come and see,” he added.
A museum spokeswoman said in an email late Friday the museum planned to stay open this weekend until it received a federal order to shut down. On Saturday, the museum indicated it would remain closed until the shutdown has ended.
Steven Wright said he was part of a group with a Cub Scout pack that drove four-and-a-half hours Saturday from Pittsburgh, Pa., only to discover the museum closed.
“It would have been nice to have known, but we didn’t even think to check on that,” he said.
The political drama over the failure of Congress and the White House to prevent a shutdown because of a lapse in a temporary funding frustrated Boyce.
“Our entire government causes me frustration,” he said. “It’s a little ridiculous that things like this get used as pawns in political games.”
WHIO-TV’s Malik Perkins contributed to this story.