After attending the 2019 Airliners International Show at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta in June, I braved the freeway traffic and headed southeast to Warner Robins, Georgia. The next day, I would be visiting the second largest Air Force Aviation Museum in the U.S., the Museum of Aviation located adjacent to Robins Air Force Base.
The Sure Stay Best Western Hotel in Warner Robins provided me with comfortable mid-priced accommodation for the night. Across the parking lot was a Ruby Tuesday, which made my dinner selection easy. The hotel was close to the museum, so I was one of the first people in the door on a very hot June morning in Georgia. The museum was hosting day camps for children, so there was a lot of activity throughout the four buildings that comprise the museum.
The Museum opened in 1984 with only twenty aircraft on display and today it boasts over eighty-five aircraft. It has grown into the second largest Museum in the U.S. Air Force and the fourth most visited museum in the Department of Defense. The massive fifty-one-acre site is dotted throughout with aircraft of all shapes and sizes.
Having been a dependent wife, married to an Air Force Officer some years ago, I am no stranger to Air Force aircraft and I have flown on many types of aircraft; but seeing the machines up close is always a treat for me. Many of the docents are retired military personnel, and they were happy to engage and provide visitors with detailed information about each of the planes and exhibits.
The Eagle Building
Beginning with the exhibits on the War in Korea and World War II, I found a substantial display that outlined Women Aircraft Service Pilots.
Just down the hall was a cutaway of a B-17 about how the crew was positioned throughout the plane. It illustrated just how cramped the planes were for the men who served in those planes. A bit further on, I was introduced to the 14th Air Force and The Flying Tigers under the command of Lieutenant General Claire Chennault, who served extensively in China with the Air Force’s China Air Task Force.
Walking through the extensive exhibit on Brigadier General Robert L. Scott, Jr., I learned that the Georgia native had attended West Point and was a World War II ace, downing 13 Japanese aircraft. His memoir; God is My Co-Pilot describing his exploits with the Flying Tigers in China was made into a motion picture and released in 1945.
On the second floor, I found a beautiful display of aviation artwork, models and a gallery celebrating the men of the Flying Tigers.
The Robert Scott Hangar
The Scott Hangar serves as the restoration area for the museums’ ongoing efforts in aircraft restoration. The restored P-51 H mustang was ready to touch the sky again. It is one of six that are known to exist today. Next to the Mustang was the B-29 “Superfortress.” The B-29 was the workhorse of the bombers in the Pacific theatre in World War II. It was a B-29 that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan in 1945.
The Tuskegee Airmen are well remembered within the museum. Displays on both Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Davis and ‘Chief’ Alfred Anderson tell the story of these aviation pioneers. It was who was the first black pilot to solo in an aircraft and commanded three fighter groups and was the first black general in the US Air Force, and ‘Chief’ Alfred Anderson was the first black pilot to be awarded a commercial pilot’s license in the United States. Anderson taught advanced courses at Tuskegee but eventually transferred into the training unit so he could train the Tuskegee cadets. When First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wanted a brief ride about the Tuskegee airfield, it was Anderson who was her pilot. The BT-13B Valiant located adjacent to the Tuskegee display is an example of the aircraft that would have been used to train the Tuskegee pilots.
Down to Earth
Down to Earth is an award-winning exhibit that interprets the history of D-day and Operation Overlord and how airborne, gliders and troop carriers assisted in the success of the invasion. The display includes a cutaway of the C-47 showing soldiers’ ready to parachute into France and what they faced after landing in French towns such as Cauquigny. There are also artifacts and weapons taken from the German army during World War II. Just outside the exhibit is a B-25 bomber, which played in the huge part in the bombing in the European Theater, is being restored.
The Century of Flight Hangar
Upon entering the Century Hangar, I was informed there was a change of command ceremony in progress on the main floor. Having attended similar ceremonies, I headed to the second level to where I could see the ceremony from above. I watched the troops and assembled guests for the balance of the change of command and even joined in on singing the Air Force song.
Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame
The Georgia Aviation Hall Of Fame is housed on the second level of the flight hanger. The Hall of Fame is far-reaching in the scope of individuals honored, from titans of industry to inventors to astronauts.
Beginning in 1989, the Hall of Fame as inducted some 115 individuals. Only individuals who have made an outstanding and lasting contribution to the advancement of aviation or manned space flight are eligible for nomination.
Just a few of the names I found honored here were: C. E. Woolman, founder of Delta Airlines; Vice Admiral Richard H. Truly, who fly the Enterprise Space Shuttle and was responsible for rebuilding the shuttle program after the Challenger disaster as the NASA administrator; and, Jackie Cochran, who obtained her pilot’s license in 1932, set numerous cross country speed records, served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the USAF and at the time of her death, held more speed, altitude, and distance records of any other pilot, male or female, in aviation history. There are numerous artifacts for visitors to explore here.
One item that I had not seen before was the astronaut pin.
Housing Vietnam era aircraft, the Nugteren hanger puts you in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
Rick Goddard’s F-10D, a MIG-17, and an Iroquois helicopter, which was the stalwart force used during Vietnam are just some of the aircraft you will see on display here.
There are dozens of aircraft to explore throughout the campus of the museum. A B-52 bomber and a C-130 Hercules are just two that I quickly recognized. You are provided a map of the campus when you enter the museum. It is very useful in identifying the aircraft.
If you enjoy military airplanes, this is the place for you. You can spend hours walking through and learning from the displays and exhibits. There are climb-in cockpits for several aircraft to explore and Virtual Reality simulator rides can be purchased for a small fee. The Museum of Aviation is free to the public and there is ample free parking.