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Bennett passes measure keeping memory of Air Force base alive

Tuskegee Airmen - Circa May 1942 to Aug 1943SPRINGFIELD – Rantoul-area museums displaying exhibits from the closed Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum will have access to funds purposed for the exhibits under a law passed by the Illinois Senate today.

Champaign County was previously home to Chanute Air Force Base until 1993. Originally opened in 1917, the base was one of the Army Air Corps’ original training schools for pilots. The site was chosen due to its close proximity to the Illinois Central Railroad and the University of Illinois.

During World War II the base, then called Chanute Field, was home to the first training classes for the officers of the 99th Pursuit Squadron. The squadron was an all-black unit that would eventually be known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

After the base was closed in 1993, the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum was opened and housed more than 40 aircraft including military fighters, bombers, rescue, reconnaissance and cargo aircraft. A special license plate helped fund that museum until its closure in 2015.

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) sponsored legislation freeing up the funds so museums currently housing those aircraft may use them.

“The Chanute Air Force Base was an important part of central Illinois both in terms of the economic impact and as a source of pride,” Bennett said. “Freeing up these funds for museums that keep the exhibits from the old Chanute Museum will preserve the heritage of the base and keep Chanute alive in our memories for generations.”

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives.

Sen. Scott Bennett

Senator Scott Bennett

52nd Senate District

Years served: 2015 - Present

Associated Representatives: Carol Ammons; Chad Hays

Committee assignments: Agriculture; Appropriations II; Criminal Law; Gaming; Higher Education; Labor.

Biography: Bennett grew up in Gibson City, where four generations of his family worked on their family farm. He moved to Champaign-Urbana to attend law school at the University of Illinois after graduating from Illinois State University.