Visitors Explore Newly Renovated American Airlines C. R. Smith Museum

By Alan Fleck | DFW Newsflash | September 2018

For those who have visited the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum in Fort Worth in the past, the first reaction upon entering the remodeled museum may be one of spaciousness. With the just-completed renovation, the main museum floor of exhibits was cleared out, re-carpeted, and filled with a new set of interactive activities, including new touch screen displays and Command Center event simulations. Of course, the ‘Flagship Knoxville’ DC-3 aircraft is still in place, and remains open for boarding to those who want to see the inside the historic aircraft.

The museum’s update was partially inspired by the school groups and outreach programs, which brought more than 17,000 children to visit the museum since it opened originally on July 3, 1993.

“The museum was beloved, and people who came here really enjoyed it, but it had seen better days,” Uli Das, executive director of the C.R. Smith Museum, said. “It was certainly time for some renovation and some renewal. At the same time, it was time to get the story up-to-date with the strategies going on at American Airlines and a lot of the changes that are going on there. It tells the history of American Airlines, and its industry involvement.

“When I was hired, the idea was to do a significant renovation and bring it up to date with the recent history of American and bring it up to date with museum technology. We wanted to explain how this largest airline in the world works and the role of the employees running it every day. We wanted very much to put the employees into the limelight, as much as possible with their own voices to explain what they do and how it all ties together and how that operates the airline.

“We’ve done several employee events with team members, and the response has been really positive. Many have brought their kids, and the kids have enjoyed it. We look forward to hearing from more people when they come to see it,” she said.

Jonathan Pierce, director of campus culture and change, described the museum’s new layout.

“The IOC (Integrated Operations Center) is the critical part of the airline to piece it all together to make it run,” Pierce said. “It has a central place in the museum, and then fanning out from that you’ve got seven major workgroups, all represented from flight attendants to pilots to fleet service to customer support to maintenance to reservations to technical operations. There still are lots of historic exhibits, documenting and telling the story of American Airlines.”

Pierce mentioned some of the other ‘hands-on’ exhibits, including the cockpit of an MD-80 aircraft, where visitors can actually adjust controls while listening to instructions from a LaGuardia-based pilot; a baggage loading area where visitors are provided suitcases to load within a given time-period, and the IOC, where visitors are challenged to make the correct decision about rerouting aircraft due to weather issues.

Jose and Emelia Molina from Ft. Worth enjoyed the MD-80 exhibit, while Ivette Molina appreciated the newer, more spacious museum layout.

Jet Macenko from Durango, Colorado took his turn at the MD-80 controls, and stated his father is a current pilot for American Airlines.

Pierce provided some insight to the planned changes to the entire landscape of the American Airlines campus from the C.R. Smith Museum all the way over to the new American Airlines Headquarters building, which itself is well underway.

“We’ve got such a significant investment going on in the campus here that we have got a team of people who are dedicated to building the real estate,” Pierce said. “There is a small team of people, which includes me, who are leading the change management side of it. When you are having to relocate thousands of employees into a new home, it is to help them to process that change as we move into the new properties. Our hope is by having this central campus where the front line mixes with the support teams you are able to create a culture where everybody understands each other’s roles; everybody is working together much more harmoniously. The current office is very disconnected from the operation, which has meant people have not understood each other’s roles as well as we need to.”

Pierce mentioned the American Airlines Credit Union will be moving to the new American Airlines campus, just across FAA Boulevard from the museum. In five or six years, when all of ‘one campus, one team’ is connected, the plan is to remove the surface lots and then landscape the entire area, as well as providing an underpass under FAA boulevard, so team members can cross safely and easily between the north and the south campus.

“We are going to create this environment where whether you are in reservations or the IOC or flight training or the museum, you will be able to very easily connect to the southern end of the campus,” Pierce said. Each building of the new AA headquarters building will be called Skyview (1 through 8).

The current target for moving from the current AA headquarters into Skyview 7 and Skyview 8 is the summer of 2019.

The C.R. Smith Museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.