The American Helicopter Museum & Education Center’s mission is to preserve rotary-wing aviation history, educate society on helicopters and their missions & inspire future generations.
We will collect, preserve, research, publish and exhibit objects, artifacts and documents relating to the origins and development of rotary-wing aircraft. We accomplish this through an active schedule of public educational programs, exhibitions, events, air shows, workshops and publications designed to teach the principles of flight, celebrate the pioneers of aviation and encourage and inspire future generations of engineers, scientists, innovators, pilots, mechanics and inventors!
To be the preeminent rotorcraft museum and education center in the United States and widely recognized as a major tourist destination in the mid-east region.
The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center is envisioned as an enterprise that:
Preserves and showcases Rotorcraft and related artifacts using displays that interpret each item’s unique history and contributions to science and society.
Shares the wonder of vertical flight through exciting, immersive, multi-sensory experiences that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages and promotes repeat visitation.
Operates in a fiscally responsible manner, well endowed by corporate and individual investors and annual operating revenues offset operating costs.
Engages in active public education and outreach programs through K-12 programs, seminars, events and a presence on the world wide web.
Operates a publicly accessible rotorcraft restoration and preservation facility chartered to execute a collection strategy and prepares artifacts for public display.
Provides a safe, clean, comfortable, service-oriented environment that enhances guest experience, attracts business and improves staff effectiveness and morale.
The American Helicopter Museum & Education Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. All revenue supports the museum’s mission to preserve rotary-wing history, educate society on helicopters and their missions, and inspire future generations. You can support our mission and on-going success by making a donation here.
The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center (AHMEC) was established in July 1993 as an initiative of the American Helicopter Society (AHS) Philadelphia Chapter to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the AHS. A group of rotorcraft pioneers and industry leaders discussed many options for the commemoration, but the idea of a museum won out after Peter Wright, then President of Keystone Helicopters, offered to donate several vintage helicopters if a museum was established. The museum would recognize the contributions of the Philadelphia region to the rotary wing industry.
A Charter Team spent two years planning the museum and raising the necessary funds to open the nation’s premier museum dedicated solely to rotary-wing aviation. Peter Wright took on the role of President, Robert Beggs served as Vice President, and Robert (Treb) Lipton acted as Secretary and Counsel. Their goals were to preserve rotary-wing heritage, arrest the loss of artifacts, and recognize the contribution of helicopters to society.
The planning team found a vacant hangar for rent next to Brandywine Airport in West Chester, PA. As the hangar had previously been a production facility for MBB Helicopters, it seemed like an ideal site. A team of volunteers from Boeing got to work converting the space into a museum and restoring a Vertol HUP helicopter donated by Peter Wright. The National Air & Space Museum provided 3 other rotorcraft: a Piasecki PV-3, a Bell Model 30, and a Sikorsky XR4. Additional helicopters donated by Peter Wright and other supporters enhanced the original collection.
On October 18, 1996, the Museum opened its doors to the public. Its membership already numbered nearly 800 and only continued to grow. The Museum’s first Executive Director was Carl Shafer, who oversaw the growth of the Museum’s collection of helicopters, the development of an annual all-rotary-wing airshow called RotorFest, and the delivery of a V-22 Osprey on long-term loan from the Marine Corps. Ann Barton Brown succeeded him as director in 2001 and focused on positioning it for growth and increased community engagement. Volunteers continued to make huge contributions to the institution, serving as docents, building and maintaining exhibits, restoring aircraft, performing research, and presenting educational programs. The Museum gathered numerous accolades, including “Best scientific outing for kids” from Aviation History Magazine, “Best science museum for children” from Philadelphia Magazine, and “Best educational outing for kids” from Main Line Today.
Museum Board members Peter Wright and John Desmond purchased the Museum’s building in 2002 and leased it back to the Museum. One year later, Frank Robinson, President of Robinson Helicopters, made a generous contribution that enabled the Museum to acquire the facility. At the same time, plans for enhancing the Museum’s ability to educate and inspire its visitors were developed.
In 2003, the Museum’s leadership initiated a phased plan for an expansion and redesign facilitated by a capital campaign. The funds raised were utilized to complete “Phase 0” of the redesign plan in 2017. This project involved moving the restoration area and library to newly-refurbished spaces, which allowed for the creation of a state-of-the-art theater, a conference room, and additional classroom space. The theater is used to welcome visitors with a variety of helicopter-themed videos, host Museum events, and serve as a venue for corporate meetings. These spaces have significantly enhanced the Museum’s ability to offer robust and sizable educational programs.
The Museum’s collection of aircraft continues to grow. A fully restored Sikorsky UH-34D Seahorse was acquired from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. A Boeing CH-46E Sea Knight is on permanent loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum, and a McCulloch J-2 Gyroplane was a unique donation. The Aerovelo Atlas human-powered helicopter, winner of the AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Prize, is a testimony to innovation. Interactive exhibits showcase aviation industry pioneers, highlight the science and technologies unique to rotorcraft, and demonstrate the many essential roles that rotary wing aircraft fulfill.
Today approximately 35,000 people visit the Museum annually and it reaches many more through its offsite outreach efforts. Its signature educational program is Girls in Science and Technology (GIST), which involves teaching girls about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and providing them with mentorship from female college students majoring in STEM. There is also a full suite of programs that make up the “Science of Helicopters,” offerings for audiences of all ages interested in learning more about aviation and its connections to larger scientific concepts. Workshops covering a range of topics such as robotics and coding have also been added to the calendar. Signature events include FamilyFest, held each year on Father’s Day, and the annual Gala, at which the AHMEC Achievement Award is presented.
Plans for the future include the continued renewal of the gallery space and exhibits, addition of fun special events to the calendar, and continuous efforts to evaluate and improve the Museum’s ability to serve its audiences and communities.
The Form 990 is an annual information return that 501(c)(3) organizations are required to file annually with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The 990 provides information on the organization’s programs and finances and is publicly available.
You can access several years of the American Helicopter Museum & Educational Center’s 990 filings by clicking here.