Interested in Ohio Aviation History? Then Don’t Miss These Three Notable Ohio Aviation Museums


Military Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS) Air Museum

The Military Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS) Air Museum located in North Canton, Ohio, and abuts the Akron/Canton Airport.  The Museum, founded in 1990, is housed in an old National Guard building.  Next year they will celebrate their 30th anniversary.  I had the pleasure of speaking with both Kim Koveski, the executive director since 2011, and Reed Kimball, the present education director.  Both are veterans and dedicated to their positions.

Flightline at MAPS
Flightline at MAPS

Currently, MAPS features 52 aircraft from the 1908 Martin Glider to an F-16 fighter.  Kim explained that the museum’s “Focus on education,” but there is an “if you build it, they will come, and they are coming.”  Last year they welcomed more than forty-one thousand visitors to the world-class museum.  On the day I visited, they were hosting a Boy Scout day, so I did appreciate the time they could spend with me. Reed Kimball summed up MAPS and its mission of education. “We get them asking questions.” 

Giving back to the community is a large part of their work at MAPS.  With an impressive 150 volunteers who are mostly vets, they have amassed some fifty-eight thousand volunteer hours of service in the last year. They also have eight hundred members that support the museum.


Restoration in progress
Restoration in progress

Many of the volunteers spend hours in the large restoration shop where there are presently four planes in various stages of restoration and several others waiting in the wings.  They also have a lot of younger volunteers from local high schools that work on the planes.   One project that is just in the beginning phases is the building and assembly of a Corsair.  Many of the planes were built in Akron, Ohio. 

The Main Hanger

Main gallery at MAPS
Main gallery

Here you will see a 1908 Martin Glider, which used to hang in Smithsonian. Its unique design of dihedral wings gives it an unusual look.  It was one of Henry Ford’s Model T’s that was used to pull it.  In the early 1900s, people many times saw their first time to see glider and their first automobile when the combo was on location.  The 1908 Martin Glider also had another first; it was the first aircraft to be piloted by a woman.

The Gallery Exhibits

Gallery of Heroes
Gallery of Heroes

There are two main exhibit galleries at MAPS.  The Gallery of Heroes holds some seventy stories of brave Ohio residents that, in many cases, made the ultimate sacrifice for their county.  Here is one captivating story from the gallery is about the Angel of Ploesti.

In the Ohio Military Museum gallery, the journey begins with the War 1812 and continues through to the present day.  You will find stories of local soldiers with artifacts that have been donated and are authentic.

Medal of Honor at MAPS
Medal of Honor

I needed more time to explore the two gallery areas because there are many remarkable stories to be learned and so much significant information to absorb.

MAPS library
MAPS library

MAPS also has a full military library and research room with reference books on planes back to the 1930s. They have also archived both Life and Look Magazines back to the 1940s.  The library is one of the finest military reference collections in the area.

MAPS main mission is education, but they are hard at work, improving their space to accommodate more visitors and functions.  Upstairs, which is still under construction, they will house a full commercial kitchen and eating area with tables and chairs purchased from a local restaurant.  With its view of the flight line and runways of Akron/Canton airport, it will no doubt be a popular spot for plane spotting. 

Although their planes don’t fly, MAPS does organize fly-ins of other aircraft that will provide paid rides.  MAPS also hosts STEM classes that teach students how to apply science class to airplanes.  Reed explained, “It’s all about making connections.” 

If you are visiting Canton, put MAPS on your must-see list and spend some time learning the stories of the many Ohio military heroes.

Armstrong Air and Space Museum

Armstrong Air and Space Museum
Armstrong Air and Space Museum

2019 celebrates the 50th year of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969.  The Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, the birthplace of Neil Armstrong is no stranger to celebrations.  Even during a sweltering summer day, the museum received some 2000 visitors on July 20.  They also hosted five Ohio astronauts for the 50th-anniversary celebrations.

Museum History

Dante Centuori, the Museum’s Director, was my guide through the nearly fifty-year-old museum in November.  I discovered that the planning for the museum began while the Apollo mission was still in progress when the then governor pledged five hundred thousand dollars for the project.  Three years later, on July 20, 1972, the museum opened with Neil Armstrong in attendance.

Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong looking to his future

This year, to honor the 50th anniversary, two new statures, commissioned by Mark and Wendy Armstrong, were installed outside the entrance of the museum.  They depict Neil as a boy and as a pilot.

The Museum

The concept and design of the museum is that of a Moonbase.  Due to its large concrete dome, many originally mistook it for a salt storage area due to its location just off the interstate.  Recently the Ohio Department of Transportation erected a sign on the highway for the 50th anniversary advising the location of the museum and the “First man on the moon.”


Standing outside the museum is the F5D-1 Lancer aircraft flown by Armstrong. The restored cockpit form the aircraft is on display inside. Armstrong saw in the aircraft its ability to save pilots and spacecraft from a launchpad explosion. Unfortunately, only four of the planes were built, and the program canceled.    


Gemini 8 capsule
Gemini 8 capsule

Inside, the cornerstone exhibit of the museum is the Gemini 8 capsule, flown by Armstrong and Dave Scott in March 1966.  It was the sixth of the Gemini missions.  It rendezvoused with the Agena spacecraft, and while the vehicles were docked, they began violently tumbling through space. The astronauts were able to correct the issue with a maneuver of the retry control systems.  But with that, the mission was cut short, and the planned EVA scrapped.  Armstrong and Scott returned to Earth some ten hours after the launch.

Armstrong's Backup Spacesuit
Armstrong’s Backup Spacesuit

There are numerous artifacts to view at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum. Foot straps that flew on Columbia during the moon mission, Armstrong’s back up space suit used during training.  When he wore the spacesuit, he weighed 190 pounds on earth but only 32 pounds on the moon.  A significant artifact on display is a large Moonrock.  This uniquely displayed piece of another planet is Instagram worthy.

Moonrock at Armstrong Air and Space

Inside the iconic concrete dome of the museum is a theatre that plays a documentary about the Apollo 11 mission.  Leaving the theater will move down a hall of photographs of the planets of our solar system. Further on is the Armstrong Art exhibit.  Here you will find photographs, paintings, and other items that people sent to Armstrong throughout his life. It represents only a small part of the collection.

Armstrong Art
Armstrong Art

In the last exhibit are there is a large display on the Shuttle program and STEM area for children where they can interact with different displays and experiments.  Then you find yourself in the gift shop.

As you enter the museum you will see a tribute to Ohio Astronauts.

Armstrong was sensitive about the perception of the museum, and he didn’t want anyone to think he was capitalizing on his name.  The state originally named the museum the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum, but today it is the Armstrong Air and Space Museum.

Boyhood Home

Armstrong's Boyhood home
Armstrong’s Boyhood home

Armstrong’s boyhood home is a short drive from the museum.  The home is where he lived there during his high school years, where Neil obtained his pilot’s license before he received his driver’s license.  Neil’s parents lived there until 1969, and they lived in Wapakoneta until their death.

The Armstrong Air and Space Museum is a testament to when America was focused on one united goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”  

Liberty Aviation Museum

Liberty Aviation Museum
Liberty Aviation Museum

The Museum opened in 2012 and is located near Port Clinton, Ohio, and adjacent to the Erie-Ottowa International Airport.  Don’t let the website fool you, this is a big museum.

Gallery One

Here we learned about the history of civil aviation in the area. The star of the show is the three-engine Ford Tri-Motor “Tin Goose” that was flown actively in the region in the beginning in the 1930s and most notably by Island Airways.  The plane was the literal ‘lifeline’ for the islands providing foodstuffs, mail, and providing transportation to the mainland.

There were also displays of other of the museum’s artifacts from the commercial airlines as well as some television memorabilia.

Goodyear bus
Goodyear bus

Also on display were the Harvard IV, the Goodyear Bus that was used to transport employee’s fire trucks and several sleek racing cars.

PT 728

PT 728 Restoration
PT 728 Restoration

In Hanger two, we wandered through the restoration area of the facility where two volunteers, Larry and Joe, were hard at work, crafting a component for a PT boat, PT 728.  The 72-foot vessel is 19 feet wide and was a working boat on the Hudson River. The museum purchased it and brought it to the museum through the Erie Canal in 2012. 

PT 728 was built during the first week of 1945 but never saw combat.  It was used as a training and supply boat and later as a movie prop and had been rebuilt in the 1960s.  

By 2012 the boat was sanctioned to be rebuilt, and in 2015 it was brought to the museum.  Once the museum completed construction on the vessel, sea trials were conducted, and the boat began falling apart.  It was then discovered that the contractor had made mistakes during the rebuild. During 2016-17, PT 728 was torn down, and since 2018 the museum was been rebuilding PT 728. The boat even has its own Facebook page.

Military Machines

The museum boasts many World War Two area military vehicles and aircraft in its ample hanger space.  I was surprised to see many jeeps, motorcycles as well as an artillery piece that a man had driven to the museum for donation.  

Military Vehicles at Liberty Aviation
Military Vehicles

For three years during World War Two, Sherman tanks were built in Lima, Ohio.  The one housed at the museum is owned by the Lima historical society and is fully operational.  Thirty-nine thousand Sherman Tanks were built in the US, where one tank produced every twenty-four minutes.  The tank contains three inches of steel in the body and four inches in the turret.  It weighs thirty tons and carries a five-man crew.

Georgie’s Gal

Georgie's Gal
Georgie’s Gal

This B25 Mitchell bomber was built at the Willow Run production plant by Ford Motor near Detroit.  The planes were built at a rate of one every hour and eight minutes and built nearly ten thousand of them for the war.  

Although designed in 1935, the plane was used by Doolittle in the air raid over Tokyo.  They were able to fit sixteen of the bombers on the Carrier Hornet to accomplish the Tokyo raid.  Today, museum personnel use the plane for touring and have modified the bomb bay to accommodate cargo.

Ford Tri-Motor

Ford Tri-Motor Expert
Ford Tri-Motor Expert, Doug Moore

Doug Moore, an employee of the museum, oversees the Ford Tri-Motor construction that is being built by volunteers from the ground up.  The Tri-Motor Heritage Foundation oversees the project.

Between 1925 and 1933, only 199 Tri Motors were produced by Henry Ford.  It was the premiere airplane of the day.

The planes were only built for six years because Ford’s protégée was killed in a crash during a flight test, and Ford lost interest in the program.  The Tri-Motors were the lifeline for the islands around Port Clinton.

Ford Tri-motor Tri motor in progressin progress
Ford Tri-motor in progress

Doug told me that if they stay on track with the volunteers building the plane, it will take 22 years to complete. “It has become my passion.” He told me.  Doug is one of the few Tri-Motor experts in the world.  The museum also owns Ford Tri-Motor aircraft that is under lease to Oshkosh, WI.

Gallery Two

In the main display area, which is humidity and temperature controlled, you will find something of note in every nook and cranny. There is quite a bit of movie memorabilia here as it relates to the military.  Several items caught my eye, Steve McQueen’s jacket from the Sand Pebbles film, Alan Alda’s bathrobe from MASH, and an original script from Catch-22.  

The museum focuses on Ohioans who have severed in the military, and there is much to see here. One famous Ohioan is Clark Gable.  They have Gable’s dress uniform, which was specially tailored for him as well as all of his paperwork from the time he served in the war.  Capt. Ronald Reagan signed his DD214 (or discharge form). You can’t get more Hollywood than that.  

Lenny Thoms, who served as the 1st Officer on PT-109 with John Kennedy on PT 109, was from Sandusky, Ohio. Thoms also captained the PT 579, Thomcat.  PT 728 is named Thomcat in honor of Thoms, who survived the war but was killed in a railroad crossing accident in 1946.

The Tin Goose Diner

Tin Goose Dinner
Tin Goose Diner

The Museum also features the Tin Goose Diner, where both lunch and dinner are served daily.  It serves some eight thousand diners each year and is a popular place for locals to dine.  If the food was half a good as it smelled, we should have stayed for lunch.  

Don’t miss the unique museum in Port Clinton. Have a bite of lunch and learn about Ohio’s aviation and military history.

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