Wings Over the Rockies™ President & CEO John Barry to Retire

Denver, CO (June 17, 2024) – Wings Over the Rockies (Wings) Air & Space Museum announced today its president and CEO, John L. Barry, Maj Gen, USAF (Ret), will retire. Barry has been serving in this role for both the Wings Lowry and Exploration of Flight (EOF) Centennial locations for nearly eight years. The Wings’ board of directors have hired Kittleman & Associates to guide the search to fulfill this important leadership position. Barry will retire when the new President and CEO has been selected.

“Wings Over the Rockies holds a special place in my heart, since day one in taking this role on I have been committed to inspiring innovation and action for the next generation of aviation and space explorers in Colorado,” said John Barry. “I’m excited to embark on this new chapter in my life and am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such a smart, strategic board and a wonderful team that makes the Wings museum a top-notch place.”

When Barry took over as CEO in January 2017, he was faced with the challenge to open a second site at Centennial Airport, now known as Exploration of Flight. He quickly assembled a team from the Board and staff that worked to negotiate a zero percent loan from the Walton Family Foundation for $3.3 million that allowed the first building to be completed within 18 months.

With the challenge of getting a design, hiring contractors and coordinating with Arapahoe County, the Blue Sky Gallery, a 20,000 sq. ft. building was complete in record time. The Wings Blue Sky Aviation Gallery is a dynamic flight-focused exploration center that offers visitors interactive flight related experiences and exhibits. The 15-acre campus now has a Blue Sky Gallery for aviation, a charter middle school for over 200 students which opened in 2020 and a soon to be developed Food Hall and additional hangar by 2025. This facility put Wings on the map as one of only two Aerospace Museums in the U.S. that has one organization with two locations (the other is the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.).

“Under John’s outstanding leadership, he worked day-in and day-out with his team to make Wings the most exciting and innovative museum and aerospace center in the United States. Wings is well on their way to accomplishing this and serving as a model on how other Air and Space Museums can operate. John’s leadership has been integral to achieving this,” said Charlie Johnson, Wings board chairman.

In addition to being CEO of Wings for almost eight years, he previously served on the board for seven years and was Chairman of the Board for an additional two more years. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Barry’s team approach allowed the staff and volunteers to not only get through the challenges, but to thrive in the years following. In its 30 years of existence, Wings had their most successful year ever in 2023 for attendance, events, traveling exhibits, flying students and flying teachers.

Under Barry’s leadership, Wings was recognized for the past four years as one of one of the top 10 Best Aviation Museums by USA Today and named in the “20 Best Aviation Museums Around the World” by CNN Travel.

While serving as president and CEO, Barry has led his team to achieve many noteworthy accomplishments including: expanding the “Behind the Wings” video series on PBS
airings in 100 markets and in 39 states with over 50+ million YouTube lifetime views;
helped bring more than 40 new and exciting exhibits over the years; and developed
new and innovative educational pathways that are unique to the nation which are at the core of Wings’ mission and are designed to help prepare Colorado’s youth for a career in aerospace.

In 2022, as part of Wings Aerospace Exploration Pathway, a hands-on enrichment program focused on project-based learning through the lens of aviation and space, students celebrated a feat that has been several years in the making. Students built 80% of Wings’ RV–12iS aircraft spending over 1,700 hours completing the airplane, with support and help from Wings staff and volunteers. Barry flew all the test flights for certification. He was also instrumental in cultivating the next generation of private pilots in awarding hundreds of Colorado students Flight Training Scholarships worth $1.2 million  awarded since 2019 with support from the Ray Foundation.

Barry’s love for aviation started as a kid growing up in the Bronx, NY and grew as he graduated with honors in 1973 from the United State Air Force Academy (USAF) in Colorado Springs. He then launched his 30-year career with the USAF serving as a combat veteran with 270 hours of combat time, fighter pilot, Fighter Weapons School Graduate, winning team member at the international Air-to-Air William Tell Competition, White House Fellow, Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and commander multiple times at the squadron, twice at the group command level and twice at the wing command level. He retired in 2004 as a Major General, and served his last tour on active duty as Board Member and Executive Director for the Space Shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation. From 2006-2013, Barry served as Superintendent of Aurora Public Schools (APS) serving 40,000 students in 59 schools with a budget that exceeded $500 million. He was also the President/CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver (BGCMD) from 2014-2016 where he was responsible for 17 standalone and school-based sites.


Wings Over the Rockies™, a Colorado-based non-profit organization and Colorado’s official Air and Space Museum, is committed to educating, inspiring and exciting all people about aviation and space endeavors of the past, present and future. Wings is one organization with two locations. Located in Denver’s historic Lowry neighborhood and established in 1994, the Museum features more than 97,000 square feet of world-class historical and educational exhibits. In addition to more than 80 impressive aircraft and spacecraft, visitors discover exciting personalities, stories, and events about every aspect of aviation and space exploration. Exploration of Flight is located at Centennial Airport. Opened in 2018, it features 18,000 square feet of interactive experiences, aviation-focused events and actual flying aircraft. Visitors to the two locations come from all 50 states and more than 34 countries. For more information about Wings Over the Rockies, please visit