July 17th, 2019

bob immellNew MAAM Director Bob Immell speaks before the Liberal City Commission during its most recent meeting last Tuesday evening. Immell has been in the post since the end of October and said he has several projects he is excited for. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The abrupt resignation of Scott Metelko as director of the Mid-America Air Museum earlier this year lurched the city into the search for a new director. That search was recently completed with the hiring of lifelong Liberal resident Bob Immell as the new MAAM director. 

Immell has spent several years working in the banking industry and was officially announced as the new director at a city commission meeting in November. 

“I understand business, our community, our local economy and in the early years of my career, I worked on and organized several large-scale events,” Immell said. “I’ve also had a lifelong passion for history, in particular vintage military aviation history.”

Immell was inspired to apply for the director position having seen the museum’s founding and evolution throughout the years. 

“I knew many of the original founders of the museum and had the privilege of working with many of them at various times on civic projects,” Immell said. “So when the position became vacant earlier this year, I decided it was time for me to give it a try partly to honor the past and partly to have the ability to use some of my talents to help improve what’s already a very impressive historical jewel right here in Liberal. I was happy when it became official I’d been hired, but by then I was already working on what I was wanting to do so I could hit the ground running when it was official.”

Immell officially started at the museum Oct. 31 and said each day so far has been “an absolute blast.”

“I particularly enjoy giving the tours to people and telling them some stories about the planes and helicopters we have on display,” Immell said. “Any time you can give a tour and share some history with someone and see their eyes light up, it’s a great feeling. It’s also great to hear some of the stories some of our visitors have about certain aircraft. My favorite thing about working here so far has been the tours and talking to people, whether they’re visitors, fellow city employees or museum staff.”

Immell said he has many goals for his time as director. 

“Any new director, of course, should want to increase the number of people who visit the museum, and I’m no different, but the question is how to do that?” Immell said. “Some of the programs the museum has had in the past such as the robotics program and the traveling exhibits like the dinosaurs and Megalodon have brought in a large number of people, especially many who hadn’t previously visited the museum. We’ll continue with the robotics program and try to find other quality traveling exhibits. We also have some targeted marketing campaigns in the works to get more visitors to stop by and some campaigns to try to get more locals to come in. Another way to get more people to come through the doors is to bring in new exhibits and we’re actively working on a number of those that would be of great interest to the public. Some of those projects will happen and some of them may not, but that is something we are actively working on.”

One of those projects, Immell said, is to possibly bring an F-117 stealth fighter jet. 

“The military has started to retire the F-117 stealth fighter jet from service and there are some intended to go to different museums and we looked into that, but at this time, the decommissioning cost we would have to pay is beyond our capabilities,” Immell said. “One of the long-term goals near and dear to my heart is getting the old B-24 hangar adjacent to the main building declared a historic landmark and then eventually restoring it to how it looked in WWII. There are also other plans we would like to obtain and we’re looking into those possibilities too. We’ll have the robotics competition in March, which the staff is working hard on. Fly-ins from various chapters of the Commemorative Air Force are also in the works, including hopefully getting on the schedule for one of the only two flying B-24s. We are also working on improving our archives storage since we have a large number of historic documents and other items not currently on display.”

The nearest upcoming event at the museum is a reception from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 that will show off artwork from Dr. Lewis Armstrong, which will be displayed in the museum. Immell offered encouragement for people to visit that exhibit as well as take a trip to the museum.

“I would like to see everyone out at the museum, especially if they haven’t been out here for a long time,” Immell said. 

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