Aviation Museums

Along with another recent discovery about my neck of the woods, I just became aware of the Lone Star Flight Museum down in Galveston.

So I went there today.

Pretty neat for a completely privately funded collection. They’ve got around 40 planes, about 75% military, vehicles, an excellent collection of historical biographies of Texan aviation pioneers (I had no idea!), a great gun turret display and much more. Awesomely, they have a B-58 Hustler and a rare eight gun hard nose PV-2 Harpoon. Even more awesome was the realization that, apparent when one wall of the museum opened and a tug pulled in an SBD Dauntless that reeked of exhaust fumes, most of these babies fly! Their B-17G, their Wildcat, their Hellcat, their Spad (A-1D, not WWI), etc. are operational!

How did I know that most fly? Most had oil drip pans under their engines.

An almost all metal model of the Hornet (the one that was at Midway and was sunk in late '42) is incredible.

On to the question. While I’m aware of the USS Lexington in Corpus (hmmm…, that just might be my birthday weekend present to myself in a few weeks), I’ve seen many a solitary static display (I once slept on the wing of a B-26 in a park in San Angelo when I couldn’t find the band’s motel) and I’ve been to Wright-Patterson (got more than one, “You’re going to Dayton, Ohio for vacation?”) and the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum (I must make it back - no, I’ve not seen the annex), what museums might our av buff Dopers recommend as being worth a cross-country expedition?

The Hiller Aviation Museum is a definate. They’ve got all that remains of the U.S. SST, for one thing. And a Hiller flying platform. And a Boeing “Condor” UAV.

And, just a stone’s throw from where I live, is the Pacific Coast Air Museum. A tiny little place, with some very big fighters on display. (An A-4, an F-4, F-14, and an F-16, you name it.) Plus, if you go on the right day, they’ll let you climb inside the cockpits.

Hiller looks interesting. Thanks, Ranchoth.

It might be a good thing to link up with a visit to another West Coast museum.


Re: oil drip pans: Heh. Those old radials leaked like a… um… very leaky thing. A-1 Skyraider mission lengths in Vienam were limited by the amount of oil they could carry, not the gas.

The USS Alabama museum in Mobile has quite a few vintage warbirds, as well as a few tanks, the submarine USS Drum, and of course the battleship Alabama. There’s an SR-71 Blackbird, along with the usual WWII fighters and B-52. All static displays, AFAIK. The Drum and Alabama are open for self-guided tours; I highly recommend it, as the battleship has one of the turret barbettes cut away – the only place in the world where civilians can see what goes on in the loading area below the 16-inch guns.

It had an added bonus for us, since racinchikki’s grandfather served on one of the Drum’s sister ships, so she got to see exactly what he experienced.

The Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum is a must-see if you ever go to NYC. They’ve got an SR-71 and a Concorde on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Heheheh.

Well, there’s the U.S.S. Hornet museum-ship, also on the west coast. I don’t know if they have much in the way of aircraft…but it is the ship that picked up the Apollo 11 crew. (I think they even painted around their first steps on the flight deck.)

Sauron and I were just chatting about the Alabama not too long ago. Apparently, the Drum is closed for some reason for the time being, but that’s no reason not to go. Just walking around a battleship was great. I loved it when I was a kid (10+ years ago) and Sauron tells me it’s still awesome.

Also, if you go to Mobile, you’re not too far away from the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola (assuming it’s still there, I haven’t been in a few years), which had all kinds of cool military equipment geek stuff. I remember a simulator or something where you had to land on the deck of a carrier, among other things. I imagine it’s only gotten better since I went as a wee (well, not wee) lad.

If you’re headed thru the DFW area, try the Vintage Flying Museum at Meacham field. A little smaller than some, but it’s charming, and you can go inside some of the planes (albeit with an escort). They have (IIRC) a B-17G, a coupla f-86’s, lotsa memerobilia (from WWII, this stuff is more interesting than I expected). The B-17 still flies, and as far as I know, they’ll let you ride along on some trips (with a $$$ contribution). (I and MizPullin have ridden in it 3-4 times, owner even gave me a little left-seat time, but that was over a decade ago). Definitely worth a visit.


Those are all great, but there’s more:

While you’re in the Metromess, you can’t miss the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum, devoted obviously to airline history. I haven’t actually been out there yet myself, but I want to.

Then head east to Pensacola and the National Museum of Naval Aviation. If you time your visit right, you’ll see the Blue Angels practice there at their off-season home, or at least watch a Navy flight-school commencement exercise.

Veer south to the Fantasy of Flight Museum between Tampa and Orlando to see flight-ready WW2 warbirds.

Amazingly, no one has listed the Mecca and Medina of aviation museums, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. That’s now 2 buildings, one on the Mall in downtown DC, and a new, much larger one with a lot more airplanes at Dulles Airport. I won’t gush about them, but if you’re an aviation buff, they’re absolute musts.

While you’re in the area, go to College Park, Maryland, and the oldest still-operating airport in the world. Why? The College Park Aviation Museum is small but unique, and makes it clear just how important to aviation that little airstrip has been.

Actually, since you’d be coming from the south, you should have stopped at the Richmond, VA airport and The Virginia Aviation Museum, another smaller but excellent operation.

Then back north and the Intrepid, as already linked. I haven’t been there since they brought in the Concorde, but that’s coming up.

Keep going to Hartford, CT and the New England Air Museum near Bradley Airport. That is the only place in the North AFAIK where you can see one of the old giant flying boats, a Sikorsky VS-44 in this case.

But you’re not done heading north. Next stop is Ottawa and the Canada Aviation Museum, a packed but complete collection of a lot of planes you won’t see much of in the States.

Got your summer planned now?

Here’s a list of several Canadian aviation museum.

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed the Aviation Museum of Kentucky (http://www.aviationky.org/), which I’d recommend if you find yourself passing through the area. It’s close to Keenland, so if you come during April or October, you can also catch some horse racing.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, ON is very cool. Most of their planes are in flyable condition, and they have one of the two remaining flyable Lancasters in the world. For a mere $1500 you can crew on it!

It is definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.

Third recommendation for Mobile, and an addition: The Museum at Warner Robins AFB in Georgia is quite impressive.

Wow! Thanks for all the recommendations, folks. I’m thinking a Mobile and Pensacola road trip would let me stop at the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, as well.

It might take me a few years to get to all of them.

I’ll third the National Museum of Aviation in Pensacola. Mesmerizing. Plus, there’s a bar nearby that’s almost as full of memorabelia and is well worth your time… some place where they’ll pay you if the owner is wearing matching socks. Ring a bell, anyone?

Ringo, happy birthday in two weeks. It’s not on the 31st, is it?

I forgot that one and I lived there! Great museum, though, I loved it.

If you do go to the USS Alabama and climb into one of the gun turrets, it’s perfectly normal to make “Bang! Bang!” noises…

or so I’m told.

If you feel like heading to the Pacific Northwest, there’s the Tillamook Air Museum and the Boeing Museum of Flight.

If you’re ever near SW Michigan, the Kalamazoo Air Zoo has some great aircraft, including an SR-71. The also have some rare X-planes from WW2 that are being restored.


I’m surprised no-one’s mentioned the Confederate/Commemorative Air Force. It’s mainly in Midland which isn’t that far from you (for Texas) with branches all over the country.

While I am not myself much of an air museum enthusiast, I am very acquainted with Castle Air Museum in California, since I work in and around it every day.

They have an SR-71 and a B-17 (and lots more), and I sometimes need to go into the hangars where they (mostly retired Air Force men) are restoring the planes. It’s pretty neat to watch them trundle a finished one across base, and the open cockpit days draw people from all over. Some of my post cards in the exchange were from there.