Top Aircraft Museums in the United States
Palm Springs Air Museum (Palm Springs, California, United States)
The Palm Springs Air Museum is a living history museum dedicated to educating the public about the role Air Power played in preserving American liberties and way of life. The Museum preserves, exhibits, and flies aircraft from World War Two, Korea, and the Vietnam Wars. Most of the aircraft are in flyable condition. Many of the museum’s docents are veterans and are willing to share their experiences and sacrifices for the education of future generations. In addition to flyable and static aircraft, the Museum uses permanent and temporary exhibits, related artifacts, artwork, and library sources to perpetuate American History. Children 5 and under and all active military with ID (and their immediate families) receive free admission.
Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, California; +1 760 778 6262
Pima Air & Space Museum (Tucson, Arizona, United States)
Pima Air & Space Museum is the largest non-government funded aircraft museum in the United States. With 150 planes outdoors, the Museum offers exclusive “Boneyard Tours” and has a long list of military aircraft that will excite and educate aviation enthusiasts.
Pima Air & Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia Road, Tucson, Arizona; +1 520 574 0462
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (Washington, D.C.)
“The Smithsonian collection is the world’s best,” says Tom D. Crouch, senior curator of aeronautics at the National Air and Space Museum. “Not to recognize that is simply not to be paying attention.”
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has the world’s first airplane, the “Wright Flyer,” on an exhibit dedicated to the aircraft that made its debut flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. There’s also the Apollo 11 Command Module, “Columbia,” which brought Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins home after the world’s first moon walk. The museum’s companion facility, the Udvar-Hazy Center, also is home to historic aircrafts like the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber “Enola Gay,” the aircraft that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II.
“It’s a museum that seems to have life and soul and I would challenge anyone with an inquiring mind, whether aviation enthusiast or not, not to find something here that engages and interests them,” says aviation author and researcher Andy Saunders.
National Air and Space Museum, Independence Ave at 6th St. SW, Washington, D.C.
Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour (Everett, Washington, United States)
Tour Boeing’s enormous assembly plant that is the size of Disneyland. See the largest airplane engine in the world (a GE 90 Boeing 777 engine). Design your own jet (747, 777 and 787 Dreamliners) or sit in a simulator to experience a Battle of Iwo Jima dogfight.
Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour; 8415 Paine Field Blvd., Everett, Washington; +1 425 438 8100
National Museum of the United States Air Force (Ohio, United States)
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio has the world’s biggest and oldest military aviation museum. It’s huge, well ordered, and exhibit galleries are divided by era.
“Its sheer scale is extraordinary — it has about 17 acres of indoor display space, spread across several hangars and other buildings; and further outdoor display space for some of its larger aircraft,” says Michael Oakey, managing editor at The Aviation Historian.
The World War II gallery is exceptional, with a B-17F “Memphis Belle” that completed 25 missions over Europe and returned to the United States with its crew intact.
National Museum of the USAF, 1100 Spaatz St., Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio (near Dayton)
United States Army Aviation Museum (Fort Rucker, Alabama, United States)
The United States Army Aviation Museum boasts the largest museum display of helicopters in the world. Established in 1956, the Army Aviation Museum has over 160 aircraft on exhibit as well as an aviation hall of fame. Must-see attractions include some very early Sikorsky helicopters, a replica of a Wright Brother’s Model B military flyer, and a McDonnell XV-1 Convertiplane.
United States Army Aviation Museum, 6000 Novosel St, Fort Rucker, Alabama 36362
Pacific Aviation Museum (Honolulu, Hawaii, United States)
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor is located on historic Ford Island, an active military base that is accessed by shuttle bus from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Occupying two hangars and the Ford Island Control Tower that still bears the scars of our nation’s aviation battlefield. With some of the finest WWII aircraft around, a visit to the museum is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Hawaii.
Pacific Aviation Museum, Historic Ford Island, 319 Lexington Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96818; (808) 441-1000
Strategic Air and Space Museum (Ashland, Nebraska, United States)
Located in Ashland, Nebraska, just southwest of Omaha, the Strategic Air and Space Museum is dedicated to the military and nuclear-capable aircraft and missiles of the Cold War era and more. The location is ideal, as the headquarters for the Strategic Air Command was located at nearby Offutt Air Force Base. Must-see items include the Boeing EC-135 Looking Glass aircraft, which was designated as a flying command post in the event of an all-out nuclear war, a rare British Avro Vulcan bomber, a U.S. B-36J Peacemaker and an XF-85 Goblin aircraft, one of only two ever produced.
Strategic Air and Space Museum, 28210 West Park Highway Ashland, NE 68003; Phone: 402.944.3100
Pearl Harbor Warbirds offers the best Hawai‘i flight adventure tours available. Be immersed in the details of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor and soar above the important sites that played a part in the “Day of Infamy.” Relive history as you retrace the steps of the Army and Navy airmen in the days following the bombing. Fly on some of the same routes the Japanese attackers used into the airfields at Wheeler, Kāne‘ohe and Bellows. There are many air tours in Hawai‘i, but only one warbird airplane flight. Located in Honolulu, Hawai‘i Pearl Harbor Warbirds provides a personal historical experience making it one of the best O‘ahu attractions.
Experience an immersive two hour adventure that allows you to relive history as a Naval Aviator and fly Pearl Harbor like it was on December 10th, 1941. Learn more about the Admiral’s Warbird Adventure.