Some modern energy technology is helping update old technology from World War II.

Sam Massey, NextEra Energy project director, presented the $2,500 check to the B-29 Bombers on the Prairie Museum President George Stevens.

Massey said that NextEra believes in building strong partnerships and supporting the communities they serve and felt it was important to preserve this part of Pratt County’s aviation history.

"The B-29 Museum is an important gathering place for the community and we want to ensure that Pratt County can continue to preserve and celebrate its place in history for future generations," Massey said. "The wind energy centers we are building in Pratt County represent the technology and jobs of the future. But we also believe it's important to preserve the area's history and it's clear the B-29 represented an important part of Pratt Counties past."

The money will be used to purchase HVAC units for the museum building. The museum is the parachute building for the Pratt Army Air Field, now Pratt Regional Airport, that was the first training facility for B-29 pilots and crews in World War II from 1943 to 1946.

The parachute building was used for hanging parachutes to dry and repacking them for B-29 crews.

The building was originally steam heated but the power plant for the airbase was torn down long ago. There was no air conditioning but there were turbines on the roof that pulled heat up through screens in the roof, Stevens said.

While this didn't cool the building much, it did provide some air flow and helped reduce the temperature.

Since the building has no air conditioning or heating, it restricted the use of the facility in temperature extremes. In the winter, pipes in the restroom had to be drained and antifreeze added to prevent breakage, Stevens said.

Heating and air conditioning will eliminate the need to drain pipes. It will also make the building more comfortable in temperature extremes so it will be better for visitors. Stevens said they were getting estimates for the new HVAC now and would proceed as quickly as possible with the project.

Besides the HVAC system, a portion of the NextEra donation will be used for a new sound system in the theatre room that includes an overhead projector and speakers. The theatre has video information about the history of the base and the bomb wings that trained there.

Hopefully, the new HVAC system will increase traffic at the museum to see all the displays including the newest additions. Among those additions are a real B-29 engine from the B-29 Doc that was recently restored to flight status and is only the second flying B-29 in the world.

Also new at the museum are a World War II parachute on display in the drying room. A bed with bedding has recently been added as well.

In the main display area, a history of Women in War that tells the story of the WASPS (Women's Air Force Service Pilots) that used to shuttle the B-29s from Wichita after they came off the assembly line to Pratt. Other women like Rosie the Riveter are also featured in the exhibit.

Coming soon to the museum is a pool table that used to be on the base during the war.

The pool table was donated to the museum. Donations for the museum are always welcome.

A wall of pilots is in the planning stages to recognize and honor local pilots who served during the war.

NextEra Energy Resources made over $970,000 in charitable contributions in Kansas in 2015. Pratt County can expect NextEra to continue to be an active member in the community, Massey said.

@GaleR_Tribune