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1⁄1US Air Force Museum, Dayton, Ohio
the national museum of the united states air forceThe name pretty much says it all. Inside four huge buildings you can find just about everything the US Air Force (and before it, the US Army Air Force) has flown since the Wright Brothers invented modern aviation, as well as the aircraft of some of its foes.
Located on the grounds of the enormous Wright-Patterson Air Force base outside Dayton, OH, the museum has free admission and four enormous buildings housing over 350 aircraft from all stages of flight. The halls are divided into:
- Early flight (up to the eve of the Second World War)
- Korea & Vietnam
- Present day
- Bockscar (the B-29 Superfort that dropped the second Atomic Bomb on Japan)
- Strawberry Bitch (a popular B-24 Liberator kit)
- A WWI barrage balloon
- An F-22 Raptor jet fighter
- A training module of the Space Shuttle (the museum is not happy they didn't get the real thing)
- The infamous Predator drone, ominously hanging above your head Several presidential aircraft
Besides the permanent exhibits of planes and their support machinery, the museum also has exhibits about the Holocaust and even a tribute to Bob Hope. Most Americans have forgotten Hope, who was never more than a journeyman actor and comedian, but who brought laughs, songs and most of all, nubile young women to GIs far from home over several wars. There is also a tour of the restoration section that runs about 90 minutes and requires visitors to sign up. There is also a series of cases with what look like 1/72nd scale reproductions of just about every plane that ever took flight.
In addition to planes, helicopters and even gliders, you'll find displays of uniforms, ordnance, missiles such as the SA-2 "SAM" that was the foe of pilots in the skies over Vietnam), and even the Minuteman "Peacekeeper" ICBMs intended to deliver MIRVs (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles): small atomic bombs that would be nearly impossible for an enemy to shoot down. The Orwellian language of military public relations would make most folks' hair catch on fire.
Parking is free, and there are some planes left outside such as the C-5A. The museum is open most days from 9am to 5pm, though the grounds open at 8:30am. Visiting will require a minimum of a half-day even if you "fly" through the halls. Photography isn't just permitted: it's encouraged. There is also a film exhibit with a rotating array of history- and flight-related themes. I saw a marvellous 3-D film about D-Day narrated by Tom Brokaw while I was there.
And of course, there's an extensive gift shop with apparel, trinkets, books (a very extensive selection of Osprey titles) and even some 1/48th scale kits. And finally, the entire collection can be viewed online at the museum's website.