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Naval Aviation Museum Honors Nimitz
by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Cole Schroeder
February 4, 2019

The National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station-Pensacola unveiled a nearly 9,000 square foot scale replica exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz’s (CVN 68) flight deck, October 31, 2018.

The museum’s theater ticket counter was built to look like Nimitz’s island, and the flight deck is the second phase of the museum’s Nimitz project.

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Oct. 31, 2018 - Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, Director of the National Naval Aviation Museum, explains the pieces of the Ouija board display to Ens. Griffen Hinkley before the unveiling of the replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The National Naval Aviation Museum unveiled its 1/4 scale replica of the Nimitz flight deck as its newest addition to the exhibits chronicling 107 years of U.S. Naval aviation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)
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For the man in command of the ceremony, the Nimitz flight deck and having the towering 68 at his back was familiar territory.

“I’ve had the opportunity to deploy with her on three separate occasions,” said retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, director, National Naval Aviation Museum. “My first arrested landing as a young aviator was on Nimitz. She is the oldest carrier in our fleet and in my opinion the most capable.”

This exhibit is Gillam’s way of sharing a story in an interactive way. The exhibit gives viewers a chance to not only learn the history of Nimitz, but to see, touch and feel it.
“Our job here at the National Naval Aviation Museum is to tell the story of our rich, 107-year legacy of Naval aviation,” said Gillam. “That history is not static. Right now, men and women are flying off aircraft carriers around the world. These are Nimitz class carriers.”

There were many moving parts that brought this project, as well as the ceremony, together.

“The museum is a part of history,” said George Taylor, project manager. “The guys that worked with us to get the flooring in place, brought their families out. They were proud that they were a part of history.”

“This new display is designed to get our visitors in the frame of mind of what they’re going to experience throughout the museum,” said retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Thiessen, president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. “They’re going to step on to a facsimile of a Nimitz class carrier. This is today. This is the Navy today. Its deployed today. Its operational today. These visitors are then going to go off of this carrier, through the museum, and they’re going to then learn and understand how they got to that point.”

Thiessen talked about the unveiling event as being the first of many experiences for those visiting the museum in the future.

“You come here, you’re going to get an experience,” said Thiessen. “You don’t just learn something, you get to touch it, you get to understand it, and you get to experience it.”

Although Nimitz will one day reach its life span and be replaced, its history and legacy will live on at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Gillam may never again have the opportunity to launch from a flight deck or feel the jet’s tailhook catch the arresting gear wire. However, his contribution, and that of thousands of others who have served on board Nimitz, will be preserved as part of the Nimitz legacy.

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