8 Minutes: Bradley Air Museum and the 1979 Windsor Locks Tornado

Fall 1981: A New Home

Two years to the day after it nearly met its end, the Bradley Air Museum opened its new hangar to the public. Alongside the many tornado survivors on display inside the 35,000 square-foot space were several new additions, including some replacements for aircraft lost during the storm. There was still plenty of work to be done, but after more than 20 years, the museum had finally fulfilled an important goal: acquiring a permanent home for its collections and building a permanent exhibition building in which to display them.

Although today the airport, museum, and communities affected by the Windsor Locks tornado—which ultimately killed 3 people, injured hundreds more, and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage—bear few visible scars, those who survived its wrath won’t soon forget the memory of that day. Since reopening in 1981, the museum (later renamed the New England Air Museum) has built new hangars, grown its collections, and fully repaired several planes that suffered significant damage during the tornado, including the B-29 Superfortress, B-25 Mitchell, and F-104C Starfighter.

Now restored to their former glory, these aircraft stand as silent witnesses to one of the worst severe weather events in Connecticut’s history, and a testament to the hard work of our predecessors who persevered and ensured that the museum did not close for good on October 3, 1979.

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36 Perimeter Rd., Windsor Locks, CT, 06096