WACO Air Museum has new operations manager

Eric Combs, manager of the WACO Air Museum near Troy, talks with John Schilling, who is doing maintenance on a WACO aircraft after this September's WACO Fly-In event. Contributed

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Eric Combs, manager of the WACO Air Museum near Troy, talks with John Schilling, who is doing maintenance on a WACO aircraft after this September's WACO Fly-In event. Contributed

Eric Combs brings 20 years military experience, more to post.

TROY – Eric Combs has landed at the WACO Air Museum as operations manager bringing with him 20 years of experience in the military as well as an author, trainer and educator.

A Tipp City resident, Combs has been with the growing museum located on County Road 25A just south of Troy since this summer.

“What attracted me was this great Learning Center,” Combs said of a continuing project to expand on learning offerings that already include camps and programs in robotics and other sciences. A Learning Center building has been in the works since a 2017 announcement but the project slowed due to COVID-19. That effort will be picking up again, Combs said.

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The WACO museum is dedicated to the WACO Aircraft Company, the largest manufacturer of aircraft in the country in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The museum focuses on the Troy plant, the employees and products including various aircraft and gliders.

A native of Arizona, Combs joined the Air Force at 17 and served in the military police and security forces along with special work in counterterrorism. He served nine years overseas including England, Germany and several locations in the desert with his last assignment in South Korea.

He retired in 2000 and began teaching social studies. He was named the Ohio Teacher of the Year in 2006, served as a principal at the elementary and high school levels and taught teachers on the side. Combs also has served as an ambassador with the Smithsonian.

He continues to work for the Center for Teacher Effectiveness where he does national programs in curriculum and creating professional development coursework for teachers from student engagement to safety and security. He is author of several books including several on professional development topics.

He was contacted about the museum job due to a pending retirement of Gretchen Hawk.

He explored the idea and liked the opportunity.

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“My personal goal is it’s a great little museum and I want to build on that,” Combs said. “I would like to add some watercraft and more emotional and visual content.”

The museum has a huge library of information, drawings and records from the WACO operations. Among possible projects mentioned was seeking a grant to buy a scanner and possibly find an intern to help put some of that valuable information online for research and other uses.

Donations always are welcome at the museum as are volunteers.

“If you have an interest in aviation, aviation history or an interest in helping people learn, this would be good place to come and volunteer,” Combs said. Those working toward an Eagle Scout possibly could find a project of interest at the museum, too, he said.

Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to write to admin@wacoairmuseum.org.

Last month, Combs was involved in the annual Waco Fly-In, a weekend event that includes aircraft landing and displayed at the WACO Field next to the Museum and Learning Center. One pilot flew in from California. Following COVID-19 cancellations and restrictions at the facilities, “we are slowly but surely coming back out,” Combs said.

Among the Museum and Learning Center’s current programs is the Aviation Lecture Series held in the museum’s Willis Wing. More information on the lectures is available on the museum’s website.

New museum hours became effective this month. They are as follows: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; and closed on Wednesday.

For more information on the museum visit www.wacoairmuseum.org.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com.

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