Grounded? Visit These Flight Zones
What better way to appreciate aviation’s colorful past while experiencing its present than with a stroll through one of the 30 museums of flight located within or near a major US airport? Here are three must-see aviation museums well worth a walk-through during your next visit or layover.
Museum of Flight
King County International Airport
Tukwila (Seattle), Washington
The world’s largest private air and space museum, appropriately located in the birthplace of the Boeing Company, celebrates the story of flight while affording the added thrill of seeing more than 150 vintage aircraft and spacecraft up close, including a supersonic Concorde and an Apollo 17 Lunar Module ascent mockup.
The Kid’s Flight Zone plops pint-size pilots into the gondola basket of a hot air balloon and the cockpits of an actual Rotorway Scorpion helicopter and World War II fighter replica. Budding air traffic controllers can hone their skills in the interactive Boeing Field Tower exhibit.
Open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: adults, $19; kids 5 to17, $11; kids 4 and under, free. www.museumofflight.org
International Women’s Air & Space Museum
Burke Lakefront Airport
Located throughout the terminal of Burke Lakefront Airport, this treasure trove of memorabilia celebrates the female pioneers of flight from Amelia Earhart to Sally Ride.
The museum focuses on photos of renowned aviators Ruth Nichols, Ruby Wine Sheldon, and Jacqueline Cochran as well as the Women Airforc Service Pilots (WASP), a group of 1,074 women pilots formed in 1942 to free up male aviators to serve overseas during World War II. The group was so popular that Walt Disney even created a mascot for them: Fifinella.
Open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission: free. www.iwasm.org
Pima Air & Space Museum
5.5 miles from Tucson International Airport
With five hangars and more than 300 historic aircraft on 80 acres, Pima Air & Space Museum ranks as the third largest aviation museum in the nation and one of the finest.
Still, visitors can’t wait to board the bus for a surreal tour of the government’s “Boneyard” next door.
The nickname refers to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, which stores more than 4,000 retired aircraft and spacecraft under the Arizona sun on a sprawling 2,600 acres. A must for every bucket list!
Open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Museum admission: ages 13 and over, $15.50; ages 5 to 12, $9; ages 4 and under, free. Boneyard tour: adults, $7; kids 12 and under, $4. www.pimaair.org
Photo credits: Fokker-Dr.-I-Reproduction & Apollo Module courtesy of Museum of Flight, James A. Harris / Shutterstock.com