Aug 5, 2022 - News

Walmart heir buys Paul Allen's aircraft collection

This vintage P-51 Mustang, one of the most feared fighter jets in World War II,  is part of the late-Paul Allen's collection that was purchased by Walmart heir Steuart Walton's .
This vintage P-51 Mustang World War II fighter plane is part of the late Paul Allen's collection purchased by the nonprofit of Walmart heir Steuart Walton. Photo courtesy of Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum

A nonprofit led by Walmart heir Steuart Walton confirmed Thursday it has acquired a collection of antique aircraft and military machines curated by the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.

Why it matters: The middle of the 20th century was an era of rapid technological advancement in aircraft, vehicles and weapons. Exhibits like these aim to remind us of the sacrifices by many and inspire us to innovate, even in the face of crisis.

Details: Founded in 2004, Allen's museum remained open after his 2018 death, but closed in March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic and has not reopened.

What they're saying: "I'm excited about the potential for this collection to teach folks how technology, innovation and craftsmanship shaped history, and hope it inspires future innovators and leaders of technological progress," Walton told Axios in an email.

  • The sale's terms weren't disclosed, but the specifics were "consistent with Allen's wishes" and "all proceeds will be earmarked for philanthropy," per the museum's press release.

Flashback: News first surfaced in April that the museum had been sold to Walton, with some speculation that the collection eventually would be moved out of state.

The latest: The Arkansas-based Walton's Wartime History Museum said there are no immediate relocation plans.

  • Vulcan Inc. the holding company of Allen and his surviving sister Jody Allen, told Axios in an email Thursday the acquisition is "a wonderful outcome for FHCAM … we couldn't be more pleased," but did not respond to a question about whether the collection eventually would be moved.

Background: The late-Microsoft billionaire started collecting historic aircraft and other military artifacts in the late 1990s.

  • The museum first opened to the public at the Arlington Municipal Airport in 2004.
  • In 2008, Allen's growing collection moved to Paine Field, where it's now housed in three hangars.
  • Unlike other historic aircraft and military collections, most of its planes, tanks and other vehicles are in working order, per the museum's website.
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