TROY — WACO Air Museum and Aviation Learning Center has selected Nancy Royer to serve as its newexecutive director, during one of the busiest times in the museum’s history.
“In September of 2023, we will be hitting the 100th anniversary of WACO being in Troy, Ohio,” Royer said. “We are preparing for a massive anniversary, which will give lots of opportunities for the public to come out and discover who we are and what we have offered the community through 100 years.”
“The 100th anniversary is huge,” she said, “and there’s a lot of pieces to it that we are very excited to announce to the community. We’ll be announcing those in February.”
“We also have the Learning Center building that was started, and we’re looking to complete it,” Royer said. “Those are my first two major tasks as the director.”
Royer took over as executive director Oct. 1, following the retirement of WACO’s previous director, Gretchen Hawk. Hawk retired in early 2021, and the museum has been without a director since then.
“We’ve been operating without an executive director for a little while,” Royer said.
Royer has served as WACO’s Learning Center director since May of 2013; before that, she worked as a teacher. Originally from Missouri, Royer moved to Ohio in 1999, after graduating with a degree in education from Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Royer is also a licensed pilot, which makes her uniquely qualified to run the WACO Air Museum and Learning Center.
“It makes a whole lot more sense, everything you’ve learned on the ground, once you’re having to put it into practice in the air,” she said. “I think it helps in so many ways. It made me a better teacher with the kids, and operating our WACO flight business I understand the dynamics of the things that go into that, in terms of maintenance.”
Royer started her training as a teenager, and got her pilot’s license in 2021.
“My father was a pilot,” she said, “so I grew up around aviation. I had taken some lessons as a high schooler, then stepped away from it; I didn’t finish it at that point.”
For those who are interested in seeking a pilot’s license, Royer recommends WACO’s ground school classes, which can prepare students for flight training at another location.
“We can take them all the way through the ground school and the written portion of the test,” she said. “We have helped a number of kids get scholarships to take their flight training elsewhere.”
In addition to ground school classes, the WACO Air Museum and Learning Center also offers a 7500-square-foot museum filled with aviation and WACO-related items and displays, and operates a popular outreach program that helps bring science, technology and aviation-related lessons to students in local classrooms. More information can be found online, at www.wacoairmuseum.org.
“We have aviation summer camps,” Royer said. “We have an Aviation Cadet program where we teach them maintenance and repair on aircraft, and that gives them a very good base and knowledge.”
“We always have educational programs going on,” she said. “Teachers can call, and we can kind of custom-fit something to come into the classroom to introduce kids to aviation.”
Royer said her fondest memory from her time as learning center director was “watching kids be empowered to accomplish something great, and being free to do so here at the learning center and beyond.”
“They were allowed to experiment here, and dream about flying, and then go out and become pilots,” she said. “Especially when a teenager would get their license, and they’d come back and offer to give me a flight; you knew that you had made an impact in their lives.”
WACO has grown steadily over the past several years, and the museum is always seeking additional volunteers. “We’re at about 500 current, active members,” Royer said. “We’re looking at about 100 volunteers. We have people who volunteer a few hours per year, and then we’ve got guys who are out here every week, who volunteer 5 to 10 hours per week.”
“We survive on volunteer manhours,” she said. “There’s something for everybody. If they’re a retired teacher or a retired mechanic; If they like driving a tractor, we have lots of land to mow, keeping our runway mowed.”
The museum also needs volunteers to answer phones or run the gift shop. “We have literally something for everybody,” she said. “If it’s something they love to do, we probably have a use for it.”