Friday, June 22, 2012

USAF Museum

As I mentioned in my last post, the kids and I went to the National Museum of the Air Force.

I had heard bits about the museum -- it was big, it was nice, it was free... all good reasons to go. Turns out we can see the museum from the entrance to our neighborhood, it's THAT close. About a 5 minute drive.

And yes, it is FREE. For everybody, not just military people. That also explains why there was nearly no parking close to the building.

Anyway, we got a late start so the kids ate their packed lunch in the air conditioned car before we went inside.
outside at the memorial garden on our walk to the museum
Outside there is a memorial garden which is over an acre of grassy area with many shady trees and picnic tables. As you wander through the paved path there are different memorials, monuments, and statues for squadrons, battles, flight schools, air disasters, etc. We didn't really take the time to go through it so we'll take that on during another trip.
Once inside I realized the magnitude of this place. Wow. The facility is VERY nice, this is no rinky-dink free place. There is an IMAX in the front part! We went to the right and briefly glanced at the shops lining the walk and then actually entered the "Museum" part.

I will just say now that we were there for over 2 hours and only saw (maybe) a third of what there was to see -- probably less. And I wasn't stopping to look and read about all the amazing things they had on display!
It starts out with the beginning of flight (of course, we're in Ohio and the Wright Brothers are pretty big here). Then it goes into World War I and what they call the Inter-war Period. There are planes on display everywhere! Neat artifacts and stories too. The kids thought the place was intriguing and would point out different things that interested them.

Lana liked a blue and yellow plane best (a Boeing P-26 Peashooter replica). Will's favorite was an old Model-T Ford that had been turned into an ambulance for WWI. I told him it did not use keys and pointed out the crank. He was just amazed it didn't require keys!
the kids next to the old Model-T Ambulance

Interesting story on this plane, a Douglas O-38: it crashed in Alaska and after almost 30 years it was recovered and then meticulously restored and placed on display. Believed to be the only remaining model.
That was the first part of the first hanger. We then went into the passageway which brought on WWII. As soon as you enter you are immediately brought face-to-face with the holocaust. To be honest, I was surprised with my emotional reaction when I saw some of the displays (then again I'm reading a Corrie ten Boom book so that might be why it's so fresh). I tried to tell the kids in toddler/preschool words about it: "A bad man had all these people taken away from there homes and were very mean to them. It was just because they were Jewish. The Jew's are God's people. They were hurt and many died. It was very sad." I mean, how do you explain it to such a young age?
actual concentration camp uniform worn in Buchenwald 
Then you actually enter the second part of the hanger. Planes EVERYWHERE! I found it was a pretty cool room, personally. But I kinda have a thing for the WWII time period.
Will checking out the Women in Flight display

My favorite piece was probably the 80 specially engraved silver goblets for the Doolittle Raid men. When the surviving Raiders meet up at their annual reunion they hold a private ceremony and toast their comrades who passed in the last year. Cups still upright are the living members (only 5).
Before we could finish with WWII I could tell the kids were already done. There is still much more to see in the other 2 hangers, including the Missile and Space Gallery at the end of the museum, the Presidential aircraft display which requires a tour bus offsite, and the outdoor display exhibits behind the museum. They are currently raising funds to build another hanger to put the Presidential aircraft displays "in" the museum.
But we decided to call it a day. What an incredibly fascinating thing to have close by! With such affordable fees I can easily just go and wander around more whenever we have the time. I'm looking forward to going back again.

Oh... and I found out at AFIT spouses orientation --- Ryan's graduation, just under 2 years from now, is to be held IN the museum! How cool is that?!?!


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