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Hill Aerospace Museum unveils new exhibit featuring former Utah Sen. Jake Garn

A static display of former Utah Sen. Jake Garn's personal 1948 Navian aircraft.

A new “local heroes” exhibit Dec. 11, 2020, at Hill Aerospace Museum at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, features former Sen. Jake Garn’s personal aircraft, a 1948 Navian. Garn was a Navy aviator, an Air Force pilot, and the first public official to travel in space when he served as a payload specialist on the space shuttle Discovery 51-D. The mission of the exhibit is to help guest realize there are aviation heroes who have walked and do walk among them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

The exhibit of former Utah Sen. Jake Garn featuring his astronaut and flight suit.

A new “local heroes” exhibit Dec. 11, 2020, at the Hill Aerospace Museum at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, features former Sen. Jake Garn. Garn was a Navy aviator, an Air Force pilot, and the first public official to travel in space when he served as a payload specialist on the space shuttle Discovery 51-D. The mission of the exhibit is to help guest realize there are aviation heroes who have walked and do walk among them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- A new “local heroes” exhibit featuring the aviation career of retired Utah Sen. Jake Garn was recently unveiled at the Hill Aerospace Museum.

Museum Director Aaron Clark said intent of the local heroes exhibits are to preserve the rich heritage of Utah’s Airmen heroes from any era and from any position, who made a significant contribution to the Air Force or who had a significant aviation career.

Senator Garn’s contributions as an Airman and also as a public servant for Utah were indeed significant.

After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Business from the University of Utah, Garn served in the U.S. Navy from 1956 to 1960 and was designated a naval aviator in 1957.

He served with the Utah Air National Guard from 1963-1979, where he primarily flew the Boeing KC-97L and C-124. Garn was also instrumental in getting the KC-135 Stratotanker to the Utah National Guard.

Garn attended a city council meeting in 1966, regarding the Salt Lake City Airport. After a heated exchange, a council member said, “If you think you can do a better job, you run for office.”

Shortly after that exchange, Garn was elected to the Salt Lake City Commission, serving four years. He was elected Salt Lake City Mayor in 1971 where her revitalized the downtown area and executed the Salt Lake City International Airport master plan.

In 1985, Garn became the first public official to travel in space when he served as a payload specialist on the space shuttle Discovery 51-D. During the seven day flight, Senator Garn performed various medical tests and also played with toys like a paper airplane and jacks to see how they react without gravity.

Garn believes he is the only person who has stood on the North Pole, stood on the South Pole and orbited the Earth 109 times in between and he is the only pilot to receive Air Force, Navy and NASA wings.

The museum’s local heroes exhibit contains one of Garn’s brigadier general flight suits, worn when he was a pilot for the Utah Air National Guard and astronaut suit that he wore on the Space Shuttle Discovery.

The exhibit’s pinnacle is Garn’s personal aircraft that he donated to the museum.

“It’s so cool to have Jake Garn’s 1948 Navian on display at our museum,” Clark said. “It’s on a stand that elevates it about 10 feet in the air so guests can walk under and around it.”

Clark said former 419th Fighter Wing Vice Commander and retired Col. O.C. Hope flew the plane into Hill Air Force Base last March and it was transported from the flight line to the museum.

The Navion is a single-engine aircraft originally developed on the rugged design lineage of the North American P-51 Mustang fighter plane.

“Our mission is to educate and inspire through the history of Hill AFB and Utah Aviation,” Clark said. “Through this Jake Garn exhibit, I hope guests are more aware of these heroes who have walked and do walk among them, and are inspired by their stories.”

The museum has a public nomination submission process for future local heroes exhibits. For more information, call 801-825-5817.

The Hill Aerospace Museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and admission is free.