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Touring The Ultimate Aviation Museum: The National Museum Of The United States Air Force

A look inside one of the greatest aviation museums in the world.

Geoffrey Morrison

Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer for CNET, Forbes, and The New York Times. He also the Editor-at-large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound& Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor in Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at

There are a ton of great air museums all over the world, from the Royal Air Force Museum in London to the Pima Air & Space Museum in Arizona and the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington, DC. There’s a case to be made, however, that the best of them all is in Dayton, Ohio. There on the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the National Museum of the US Air Force has a massive collection of rare and important aircraft from the entire history of aviation.

It’s spread across five hangars, with hundreds of aircraft, and I spent an entire day exploring the museum during my 10,000-mile road trip. Honestly, I could have spent another day or three. Here’s a look in and around some of the highlights of the museum.

National Museum Usaf To Open An Aircraft One Day Each Month

On Open Aircraft Days at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, visitors will have the unique opportunity to look inside one of the museums aircraft from 11 a.m. 3 p.m.

  • Saturday, January 15: A-10A “Thunderbolt II”
  • Saturday, February 12: F-4C “Phantom II”
  • Saturday, March 12: P-47D “Razorback Thunderbolt” – AND – BF 109G-10
  • Saturday, April 23: F-94C Starfire AND F-86D Sabre
  • Saturday, May 21: HH-3E “Jolly Green Giant” AND CH-3E “Black Mariah”
  • Saturday, June 4 – Monday June 6, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day: :B-17F Memphis Belle
  • Saturday June 25 – Sunday June 26, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day: F-86A “Sabre” AND MiG-15bis
  • Saturday, Aug 13: B-24D “Liberator”

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the worlds largest military aviation museum. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 350 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space.

  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force1100 Spaatz St.

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What Else To Know About The National Air Force Museum In Ohio

Its lucky that people with foresight started to preserve military artifacts back in the early days of flight. They made it possible for us and future generations to be able to view this important slice of history. The museum contains flight artifacts from the military, but it also includes public displays too. If you travel near Dayton, be sure to put a visit to this museum on your calendar.

Even though this museum is associated with the Air Force and Wright-Patterson Field, it is actually privately funded. If you enjoy the museum, you may want to consider making a donation after your visit. Its a good experience for history buffs, people with a military interest, or families. Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes and allocate plenty of time to take in all of the sights.

Driving Directions:

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The National Museum Of The Us Airforce In Ohio

Air Force Museum, Wright Patterson AFB

Do you plan to visit the Dayton, Ohio area? If so, you might travel just a few miles out of the city to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. There, you can stop at the official, national Airforce Museum. The National Museum of the U.S. Airforce, or NMUSAF, has one of the largest collections of air-related displays on the product and is one of Ohios most popular tourist attractions.

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Tour 9 Presidential Aircrafts

The William E. Boeing Presidential Gallery gives visitors the opportunity to view an historic collection of presidential aircraft, and actually do a walk-through tour of four of them, including the Boeing VC-137C also known as SAM 26000 that flew J.F.K’s body back from Dallas and on which Eisenhower was sworn in as President. Experience history first-hand by stepping onto aircraft used by Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton.

Wright And Patterson Fields

Wright Field was “formally dedicated” on 12 October 1927 when “the Materiel Division moved from to the new site”:352 At the time of the dedication expenditures of approximately $5 million had been involved in the new facility after 18 months work, with the total amount expected to rise to between $7 and $8 million. The ceremonies included the John L. Mitchell Trophy Race :352 and Orville Wright raising the flag over the new engineering center.

On 1 July 1931, the portion of Wright Field east of Huffman Dam was redesignated “Patterson Field” in honor of Lieutenant . Lt. Patterson was the son of Frank J. Patterson, co-founder of .

Shortly before the end of WW1, 1Lt Patterson and observer 2Lt LeRoy Swan, both of the , were killed at Wright Field in the crash of their after its wings collapsed during a dive while firing at ground targets with a new synchronized-throughthepropeller machine gun. Patterson’s grave and memorial arch is at Woodland Cemetery and Aborateum in Dayton, Ohio.

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A Brief History Of The Nmusaf In Ohio

Besides offering over 360 aircraft and missile displays, this museum attracts over one million visits every year. It actually opened in the early 1920s because Daytons McCook Field engineers began to realize the historical significance of their efforts. They started to collect and preserve related artifacts. The museum moved closer to its current location at what was then called Wright Field. It was housed in a lab building.

In the early 1930s, the WPA built a building and the collection was renamed to the Army Aeronautical Museum. After WWII, this then-private collection was called the Air Force Technical Museum. In the early 1950s, they made the museum public and gave it its first stand-alone facility. The first part of the museum was housed in a building that used to be a repair hanger.

The problem was that the space was too small for the growing collection. Some valuable displays had to be parked outside where they were constantly exposed to weather and other hazards. However, the current facility did not open until 1971. Even since that time, the current facility has more than tripled in size. In 2004, the museums name was changed to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Highlights Of The Air Force Museum’s Collections

Air Force Museum Curator – 3 April – ATAF

It would take a book to do justice to the hundreds of different artifacts on display in this museum. If youre an aviation history buff, you will certainly want to set aside several hours to see everything that you want to see. However, to understand the value of this facility, you might be interested in reading about a few highlights of the museum.

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The Roswell Aliens Are There

Many Americans believe a UFO and its extraterrestrial crew crash-landed in the New Mexico desert near Roswell on July 2, 1947. They also believe the site was cleaned up by the Air Force from nearby Roswell Army Air Force Base.

Eyewitnesses reported that 3-foot tall, grey-skinned aliens died in the crash. According to Loren Coleman, the co-author of Weird Ohio, they and their space vessel were shipped off to Wright-Patterson Air Force Bases notorious Hangar 18.

Everyone else has been trying to get in there ever since.

Senator Barry Goldwater supposedly asked USAF Gen. Curtis LeMay if he could see what was inside. LeMay told the Senator that not only could he not get in, but he should never ask again.

Hap Arnolds House Is Haunted

Henry H. Hap Arnold was the only person ever to be dubbed General of the Air Force. As a major, he once lived on a house near Huffman Prairie, where the Wright Brothers worked on their planes now on Wright-Patt Air Force Base.

Many commanders lived in the house, but the Arnold House is named for its most famous resident. For years, visitors reported strange noises, objects moving on their own, odd shadows, and other phenomena.

The SyFy Network show Ghost Hunters visited the Arnold House and found that at least five entities live in the house.

The ghost hunters heard sounds from the bathroom, girls laughing in the dining room, spectres turning on lights . One of the hosts even interacts with a ghost through a series of taps as responses to questions.

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Air Power In World War Ii

As is our habit in historic aircraft collections, we briskly power walk through the early days of flight until we reach World War II. That’s where the U.S. Air Force really starts to show off its global firepower.

Bits and pieces of the B-24 “Lady Be Good” are arranged near signs that tell of ghostly activities around the artifacts of this “cursed” plane. It disappeared in 1943 during a mission over Italy, and wasn’t found until sixteen years later in the very un-Italian desert of Libya. A large stained glass window, transported from a Wheelus Air Force Base chapel in Libya, honors the original crew. “In memory of nine who made the desert a highway for our God.”

What else? Planes, planes… and more planes, in front of you, behind you, above you. In lit display cabinets along the walls are the trombone of Glenn Miller , and the leather bomber jacket of Jackie Coogan . We make a mental note to check out the large exhibit about Bob Hope, which includes a video loop of his stand-up routines for the troops, and his 1966 Christmas Special Emmy. A small crowd gathered — after nearly 50 years, Hope’s jokes could still get a laugh.

Atomic bomb dropper: Bock’s Car.

VE Day, Germany.

Museum At Wright Patterson Air Force Base


The worlds largest military aviation museum is located near Dayton, Ohio and offers free admission and free parking. At Wright Patterson Air Force Base, The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is home to over 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles, as well as thousands of artifacts, all under roof with more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. According to their website, they receive about one million visitors from around the world each year.

Dayton Ohio is located in the southwest quarter of the state, about an hour west of Columbus from I-70, and about an hour north of Cincinnati from I-75. The museum is easy to find and get to by car. I used my GPS, but there are directions on The National Museum of the U. S. Air Force website. We arrived late morning and we left before 5pm, so the traffic was light.

The museum is well laid out, making it easy to get around. There is a security check at the entrance, but its very organized, and when we arrived there was only a short line, so we went right through. There are restrooms right inside the entrance, which is a blessing after a long ride! A small theater which shows historical documentaries and boasts a D3D Cinema experience welcomes you on the left as you enter, and to the right is an information station which is very useful, especially if you are a first time visitor.

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A list of galleries you can visit at the museum, all with Air Force history and artifacts, follows:

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National Museum Of The United States Air Force

National Museum of the United States Air Force

Former name
  • United States Air Force Museum
Vacant, Deputy Director/Senior Curator
Public transit access

Memphis Belle

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is the official museum of the United States Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, 6 miles northeast of Dayton, Ohio. The NMUSAF is the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world, with more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display. The museum draws about a million visitors each year, making it one of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Ohio.

Nasa Space Shuttle Exhibit

Don’t miss the Space Shuttle Exhibit featuring NASA’s first Crew Compartment Trainer in the Space Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Board and tour the CCT!
The year 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which extended voting rights to women. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force will honor women with a new exhibit highlighting their achievements in civilian and military aviation with emphasis on the U.S. Air Force and its predecessors. The exhibit covers historical issues, changes in laws and attitudes, and women’s contributions. Specific women and groups from all eras and various career fields are noted to emphasize the impact women have played in establishing women’s current position in the Air Force.

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Ial List Of Collection

The museum is divided into galleries, covering broad historic trends in military aviation. These are further broken down into exhibits detailing specific time periods and showing aircraft in their historical context.

All aircraft in this list were designed/built in the United States of America, unless otherwise indicated.

Explore Aviation’s Past Present And Future

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force features more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. Explore the numerous galleries: Early Years WWII Korean War SEA War Cold War, Missile R and D Global Reach, Space and Presidential Galleries. Experience the Air Park and Memorial Park. There is SO MUCH to see!
Exhibits are arranged chronologically so its easy to visit the areas that interest you most.
  • Examine a Wright Brothers plane
  • Sit in a jet cockpit
  • Walk through a NASA shuttle crew compartment trainer
  • Board and tour four of nine Presidential airplanes including the plane that flew Kennedy’s body back from Dallas and upon which Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President.
  • Stand in awe of the iconic Memphis Belle or the worlds only permanent public display of a B-2 stealth bomber.
Or, take in one of the multiple daily movies at the Air Force Museum Theatres new state-of-the-art D3D Cinema showing a wide range of films on a massive 80 foot by 60-foot screen.
Satisfy your hunger at the Museums cafeteria , or shop for one-of-a-kind aviation gifts in the Museums impressive gift shop.
The newer fourth hangar, a 224,000 square foot, climate-controlled building is a dedicated gallery space presenting the Air Force’s past, present and future in space and consolidates the presidential and research and development aircraft. The fourth hangar also houses aircraft such as the C-141C Hanoi Taxi and the C-130E.

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Research Development Aerospace And Aviation

The Dayton region gave birth to aviation and is known for its high concentration of and aviation technology. In 2009, Governor designated Dayton as Ohio’s aerospace innovation hub, the state’s first such technology hub. Two major United States research and development organizations have leveraged Dayton’s historical leadership in aviation and maintain their headquarters in the area: The and the . Both have their headquarters at .

Several research organizations support NASIC, AFRL, and the Dayton community. The is a confederation of government, academic, and industry partners. The is led by the University of Dayton. The Cognitive Technologies Division of Applied Research Associates, Inc., which carries out human-centered research and design, is headquartered in the Dayton suburb of Fairborn. The city of Dayton has started , a development project to attract technology-based firms and revitalize the downtown area. Tech Town is home to the world’s first . The University of Daytonled Institute for Development & Commercialization of Sensor Technologies at TechTown is a center for remote sensing and sensing technology. It is one of Dayton’s technology business incubators housed in The Entrepreneurs Center building.

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