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Air Zoo
Air Zoo
Air Zoo
Air Zoo
Air Zoo
Air Zoo
Air Zoo
Air Zoo
Air Zoo


The AirZoo

"The AirZoo will not be a typical museum. I know I will take some flak from the purists, but, it will not look or feel like any other museum today"
Bob Ellis- Executive director

Rather than relying on dusty planes, its' appeal stems from a blend of historic displays and themed attractions. The owner wanted lighting that would dramatically impact the patron. My charge was developing the concept, designing the lighting, then designing and installing the systems which would make these diverse elements come to life.


Brilliant sunshine washes the promenade under hot air balloons as they loft patrons into the air ... children cry with delight as they whirl through tree filtered sun in bi-planes ...  lavender moonlight glints off the corrugated steel of the mission briefing hut where you will go on a bombing run over Germany ... shafted sun, holding promise of storm, strikes the bridge house and deck when you climb out of your F-18 ... eerie colors gleam from the edges of the worlds ... highest flying spy plane at the boundary of space ... here, starlight gently twinkles while you wait for lift off to the International Space Station.


The 92,000 sq ft exhibit hall houses two full size carnival rides, a WWII Quonset hut containing a 60 seat '4D' theatre, a 2/3 size replica of an aircraft carrier superstructure, four fighter simulators on the carrier deck, a shuttle mission simulator and historic aircraft on the floor and suspended in the air. Surrounding all this, the worlds' largest mural depicts the history of flight.


Most daunting was the task of lighting a mural which is now the Guinness Book world record holder. I wanted to be able to tailor intensity and color fairly precisely for the artist (Rick Herter). Its' sheer size precluded tungsten as a source because of building heat load and immense power consumption. The answer was CMY fixtures tapped for 208V. I was able to use a mere 240A to wash the entire 32' high 900' long art work with color mixing and intensity control over each fixture.

Only the rides and simulators had planned permanent locations, aircraft placement wouldn't happen until a week before ribbon cutting ceremonies. Obviously, this system had to be very flexible!

Conventional theatrical distribution wasn't practical, my hanging positions were 200' long and the cost of the pipe and wire involved would have been astronomical. Distributing 3-phase power, DMX, and portable dimmers throughout the roof truss kept cost considerations manageable while maximizing flexibility.


For system design purposes the hall is divided into quadrants. Four 400A 120/208V panels and four control racks provide power and lighting data to the quadrants. One rack houses the main control gear: a playback controller, an architectural interface, DMX distribution and a small UPS. The other three racks contain only DMX distribution gear. DMX is distributed in sixty locations throughout the hall over cat5, twelve of these are dedicated to groups of daisy chained mural fixtures.

The system runs daily on automation: first parking on the ballast channels for the mural fixtures, allowing for warm-up, then running a cue sequence with music the owner calls 'The Dawn of Flight'. (It was moving the first time at the opening ceremonies when 400+ school children launched paper airplanes, the high-bays were switched off and a theatrical dawn swept over 2000 attendees to the strains of Also Sprach Zarathrustra)

Architectural control can override the real time programming via a portable LCD pad which plugs in in the attraction superintendents office or on the restaurant mezzanine.

Programming was done off-line and then loaded by disk, with minor editing accomplished on a focus remote or on the playback controllers' touch screen. If needed, a plug-in station on the restaurant mezzanine will accept a console, focus remote, architectural remote, and network devices.


Executive Director
Construction Management
Lighting and Systems Design
Electrical Installation
Project Management
Equipment supplied by:

Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum
Bob Ellis
Delta Design Systems, Michael Flynn
Delta Design Systems
Bill Hunter, Hunter.Leet & Assoc.
Kalamazoo Electric Inc.
Bill Hunter, Hunter.Leet & Assoc.
John S. Hyatt & Associates
John S. Hyatt & Associates


More industry articles on the Air Zoo




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