By Glenn Pew, Contributing Editor, Video Editor
An all-volunteer fundraiser, "Spirit of Flight Day" for Colorado's Erie Municipal Airport Spirit of Flight Center (an air museum), raised about $10,000 Saturday, before some of the money was allegedly stolen. The museum operates on an annual budget of $75,000 and maintains a collection of restored aircraft and artifacts covering decades of history. Supporters had hoped to use proceeds from the fundraiser to pay the center's property tax bill. But after spending $4,000 on a band and beer garden to attract people to the event, organizers say they also found $2,700 missing. And it appears that loss may have been part of a mini, somewhat localized airport crime spree.
Also on Saturday, an on-airport business at Erie suffered a break-in resulting in the loss of $250 in petty cash. Nearby Vance Brand Airport also suffered a break-in over the weekend where a laptop was stolen along with cash, tools, gasoline, radios and headsets. Gordon Page, president of the museum at Erie, told a local newspaper, "It's like having a birthday party and you blow out the candles and then someone punches you in the gut." Page said he went directly into "George Bailey mode" and began seeking additional donations to recoup the museum's losses. And in the end, the crimes may highlight the generosity of the aviation community. By Tuesday, he'd already amassed a little more than half of the money lost. Local police called the criminal activity "unusual" and had not yet established any connection between the robberies at Erie and Vance Brand airports.