Patriots Point is running a tight ship this spring with several new exhibits, events and projects planned over the next two months.
The state-owned naval and maritime museum plans to unveil the Flight Academy on March 14, executive director Mac Burdette told the Patriots Point Development Board at a meeting Friday.
The flight simulation program, which has been in the works for about three years, features virtual reality apparatuses designed to look and feel like cockpits. Participants will use the interactive game to learn how to lift off from an aircraft carrier, navigate the plane and complete missions.
The six-hour program is designed for groups of 12 to 30 participants, and Burdette said he hopes it will draw scout troops, student organizations or corporate retreats.
The project to install the program on the upper level of the World War II-era aircraft carrier Yorktown cost about $800,000, half of which was paid for by a state grant. The development authority footed the rest of the bill.
The authority intends to host a reception for state legislators in late March to showcase the Flight Academy to show them "where that money is going," Burdette said.
The seaside tourist attraction will break ground in mid-April on its new Vietnam Experience, an expanded version of its Vietnam War display at the museum. The $400,000 project will include interactive features such as a simulated "firebase" and a redesign of the landscape to create the look and feel of a jungle. It also will add a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter to the display.
"If you go into the exhibit now it's basically in a parking lot, you don't get the feeling you're in Vietnam," Burdette said. "Our goal is to be the place veterans come to reflect back on their service in Vietnam."
The project should be completed next year in time for the national commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. The naval and maritime museum is spearheading the state's official program to mark the occasion.
Patriots Point will spend $100,000 of its own funds on the Vietnam Experience. Charleston County has awarded a $200,000 grant in accommodations tax funds for the project. Private donors have also pledged support.
Another program in the works at the Mount Pleasant museum is the Senior Leadership Institute, which will provide meeting spaces and training experts for team building exercises and corporate retreats.
"Companies will take their employees to hotel conference rooms or other office spaces, and we believe we have one of the most unique platforms to inspire and entertain them while they're training," Burdette said.
All of the new activities will help Patriots Point reach the goals set out in its three-year business plan. By 2016, the museum board hopes to increase annual revenue to $11.7 million, boost attendance and bring its exhibits to life with interactive exhibits.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail