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The best planes to catch at the Colorado Springs Airport rarely take off.

The National Museum of World War II Aviation is a hallmark attraction in southeast Colorado Springs, featuring dozens of aircraft that either lumbered or lit up the skies over the European and Pacific theaters more than 70 years ago.

The museum, at 755 Aviation Way, compliments the region's rich military presence of four Air Force installations and an Army post.

It honors a time when the Air Force had yet to be conceived and pilots flew with the Army Air Corps in daring bombing runs and sorties deep over Nazi Germany and Japan, such as during the 1942 Doolittle Raid.

Included at the museum are a rare twin-engined P-38 Lightning fighter, a Grumman HU-16 Albatross, a Grumman F3F-2 fighter and a disassembled P-47 Thunderbolt fighter. They are spread among 3,000 artifacts and historical documents at the museum. And the facility includes several 1940s-era military vehicles, including a M2A1 Half-track and a M3A1 Scout Car.

The museum typifies a time of growth at the Colorado Springs Airport - a key economic driver for the city's southeast side. The airport gained momentum with Frontier Airlines having resumed local service in April 2016. The Denver-based, low-fare carrier operates nonstop flights to eight cities and will add Fort Myers and Tampa, Fla., in October.

The airport also operates a business park that houses offices for defense contractors Aerospace Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. and a military terminal used for troop deployments.

The airport's west side has been in an expansion mode for several years following the approval of tax breaks for businesses operating there by the Colorado Springs City Council, the El Paso County commissioners and the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority.

To learn more about the National Museum of World War II Aviation, visit www.worldwariiaviation.org.

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Gazette reporter Wayne Heilman contributed.

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