The National Museum of the United States Air Force tells a moving story, one of epic proportions involving man and machine, which begins with early experimenters of flight before the Wright brothers got off the ground. This includes "lighter-than-air" experiments involving massive balloons, gliders, and airships. Visitors then get an in-depth look at the contributions of Dayton's-own Wright brothers team and continue on with the military implementation of aircraft into the action of World War I. Another exciting exhibit is centered around the "first" flights of the 1920's and '30's, and then moves towards the action of World War II. Interwoven throughout the museum is the evolution and history of the United States Air Force; a saga that is still being written today.
That's not all! Visitors can venture out of the main complex towards two World War II vintage hangars and view aircraft from the Presidential and Research and Development collections. The National Museum also hosts IMAX theaters, special events, shopping opportunities, dining, entertainment, and educational programs to extend the potential of your visit.
This pictorial tour will allow you to sample all the major galleries within the National Museum of the United States Air Force, including the Presidential Aircraft and Research and Development/Flight Test Galleries which are located in a secure area of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Visitors must sign up and travel on a bus to see that area of the museum. The Airpark, including the Eighth Air Force Control Tower and Nissen Hut, and the Memorial Park are shown in the Outside Exhibits Area.
Enjoy the exhibit slideshow, then visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force to see the exhibits in person!
- The Wright Brothers used a wind tunnel to unlock some of the secrets of flight.
- A Monntgolfier balloon model illustrates one of the earliest successful attempts of man to fly.
- Many of the early aerial pioneers used gliders in their experimental efforts to fly. This is a reproduction of a 1904 Chanute glider derived from an 1896 design.
- The Curtiss 1911 Model “D” was the second aircraft purchased by the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
- A birds eye view of the Early Years Gallery.
- Realistic mannequins of Orville Wright and Lt Frank Lahm on board the 1909 Wright “Military Flyer.”
- The 1909 Wright “Military Flyer” the world’s first military airplane.
World War I
- Vigilant U.S. airmen in a French Caquot observation balloon keep an eye out for enemy activities.
- Italian Caproni Ca-36 was an effective strategic bomber developed in World War I. American pilots flew this type of aircraft from bases in Italy on missions against Austrian targets.
- The Fokker D. VII is considered by some as the best German fighter aircraft of the First World War.
- The German Fokker Dr. I Triplane is the most well known type of aircraft flown by Germany's top WWI ace, Manfred "Red Baron" von Richthofen.
- The Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" was America's most famous trainer of WWI. The airplane became known in the post war period as a top "barnstorming" aircraft.
- The SPAD XIII was an advanced pursuit aircraft flown by the Air Service in World War I. The Museum’s aircraft carries the markings of America’s Ace of Aces in WW I– Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker.
- The British Sopwith "Camel" was the most successful allied fighter of the War.
- SPAD VII – One of the types of aircraft flown by the Lafayette Flying Corps.
- The French Nieuport Model 28 was the first pursuit aircraft flownby American.
Between the Wars
- Martin B-10 is considered America's first"modern" bomber with its streamlined all-metal structure featuring an internal bombbay, retractable landing gear, enclosedcockpits and a rotating turret.
- Although it was originally designed during World War I to be a combination fighter and reconnaissance aircraft, the Packard LePere LUSAC 11 was used in the 1920s for high altitude research and to pioneer turbo-supercharger technology.
- The Martin MB-2 was one of the types of aircraft used by General Billy Mitchell and his airmen on their historic practice naval ship bombings of the early 1920s.
- Boeing P-12E, one of the last production biplane fighters used by the U.S. Army Air Corps.
- Boeing P-26A "Peashooter" was the first all-metal, monoplane fighter of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
- The Curtiss P-6E “Hawk” was a first line pursuit aircraft of the early 1930s.
Prelude to World War II
- This diorama shows a basic trainer, BT-9, having crashed as the result of a student pilot applying brakes too hard.
- Many young Americans volunteered to join the Royal Air Force and help the British in their struggle against Nazi Germany.
- The Eagle Squadron diorama represents a scene from the life of the American aviators who joined the Royal Air Force...
- World War II USAAF trainers were divided into three categories: primary, basic and advanced. The Fairchild PT-19A “Cornell” was one of the primary trainers used.
World War II
- The Douglas A-20 “Havoc” was one of the most versatile of the World War II light attack bombers.It was used in all WWII theaters of operation.
- Bird's-eye view of the WWII exhibit area.
- The Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” flew in all the theaters of the war and is best known for its daylight raids in the European Theater.
- The Consolidated B-24 “Liberator” and its variants were built in greater numbers than any other Army Air Forces bomber. (over 18,000)
- The Martin B-26 “Marauder” was an effective medium range bomber for the Allies. It had the lowest loss rate of any Allied bomber.
- Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” Bockscar that dropped the “Fat Man” bomb on Nagasaki.
- To support the flying mission of the U.S. AirForces around the globe required the talents of many diverse units. Some of the most essential units were the Engineer Aviation Battalions that built airfields in all the combat theaters.
- The WACO CG-4 glider is exhibited above the C-47 “Skytrain,” affectionately referred to as The “Gooney Bird.”
- “Fat Man” bomb of the type dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.
- Ray McKinley’s drum that he used as a member of the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. Exhibit also includes McKinley’s Eisenhower jacket.
- Glenn Miller’s trombone and a Music stand used by the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band – other items include one of the band’s music stands and Major Miller’s summer uniform cap.
- “Little Boy” bomb of the type dropped on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945.
- The Consolidated “Catalina” amphibian is normally associated with its widespread use by the U.S. Navy.
- The “Pearl Harbor” diorama features Lt Rasmussen’s P-36 and the plight of the Army Air Corps during the infamous attack.
- The versatile Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” was unusual with its twin boom layout. In addition to its bombing and reconnaissance role, it was the only fighter with the range to escort bombers into Germany during the early years of WWII.
- The Bell P-39 “Airacobra” was flown by American pilots primarily in the Pacific Theater and in Alaska.
- The Curtiss P-40 “Warhawk” is best known for its role in the “Flying Tigers” organization in support of China in their war against Japan.
- The Republic P-47 “Thunderbolt” was used as both an escort fighter and ground attack aircraft.
- The North American, P-51 “Mustang” was possibly the best all-around American fighter of the war. By war’s end, P-51s had destroyed nearly 5,000 enemy aircraft in the air – more than any other American fighter.
- “Forty and Eight” boxcar
- The Sikorsky R-4 Hoverfly was the first USAAF helicopter used in combat. One was used in Burma and another in Alaska during WWII.
- Two British aircraft that were used by the Army Air Forces are examples of “Reverse” Lend-Lease. The Supermarine PR XI (in the foreground) and the DeHavilland Mosquito (in the background).
- The Tuskegee Airmen were African-American fighter pilots who distinguished themselves in the European Theater of Operation.
- The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program did an outstanding job ferrying aircraft and in other non-combat flying assigments in WWII.
- The Mitsubishi Type “O” carrier fighter known as the Reisen fighter to the Japanese and “Zero” to its enemies was a formidable fighter in the early days of World War II.
- The Douglas A-26 “Invader” was another bomber developed in WWII that saw service in Korea. It became an important part of the USAF interdiction campaign against communist ground forces.
- Located in the Korean War Gallery is a fuselage of a B-29 that the public can walk through. The fuselage is painted in the markings of “Command Decision” which shot down five Soviet built MiG 15 jet fighters and qualified as a bomber “jet ace.”
- One of the largest aircraft in the Museum is the C-124 “Globemaster.It was used extensively as a strategic airlifter during the Korean War and the Southeast Asia War.
- The Lockheed F-80C “Shooting Star” was the first American aircraft to exceed 500mph in level flight. It was a day-fighter, fighter-bomber and photo reconnaissance aircraft during the Korean War.
- The North American F-82 “Twin Mustang” was developed as a long range escort fighterfor the Pacific Theater during WWII, but was too late to participate in that war.
- The Republic F-84E “Thunderjet"
- Itazuke Tower referred to an airbase in Japan that was used extensively by American aircraft during the Korean War.
- Mikoyan-Guervich MiG-15.
- This diorama inspired by a popular photograph of the time depicts the close relationship between a pilot and the ground crew that maintains his fighter aircraft.
- North American F-86A "Sabre".
- The North American T-6 “Texan” trainer found a new mission during the Korean War as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) aircraft.
- The helicopter proved its worth during the Korean War. It was used extensively for rescue and medical evacuation work.
Southeast Asia War
- The Douglas A-1E “Skyraider” was ideally suited for close-air support in Vietnam.
- The Cessna A-37A was modified from the standard T-37B trainer to become a counter-insurgency attack aircraft.
- The Sikorsky CH-3E was the Air Force’s version of the Sikorsky S-61 amphibious transport helicopter. They were used extensively for combat rescue in Vietnam under the nickname “Jolly Green Giant.”
- The Fairchild C-123 “Provider” played many roles in Vietnam including flying low-level defoliant and insecticide spray missions.
- The Dehavilland C-7A “Caribou” was a short take-off and landing (STOL) utility transport. It was used primarily in forward battle areas with short unimproved air strips in Southeast Asia.
- The Cadillac Gage V-100XM 706E2 “Commando Armed Personnel Carrier was used by the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, Republic of Vietnam, and Thailand.
- The single-seat F-100D "Super Sabre" was used extensively as a fighter-bomber in Southeast Asia. This is the two-seat F-100F model that was used as a high-speed forward air control aircraft known as "Misty FAC."
- The F-105G on display is a “Wild Weasel” configuration of the Republic “Thunderchief” used to attack enemy surface-to-air (SAM) missile sites.
- The General Dynamics F-111A was used in Southeast Asia during OPERATION LINEBACKER II” where it conducted effective night strikes against North Vietnamese targets.
- McDonnell-Douglas F-4C was the primary USAF fighter in Vietnam. Robin Olds flew this aircraft in scoring two of his four combat kills in Southeast Aisa.
- Northrop YF-5A was developed as a low cost supersonic fighter for the allied nations. It was combat tested in Vietnam and was known as the ”Skoshi Tiger.”
- The HH-43 Rescue Helicopter was used primarily in crash rescue and flight line fire fighting.
- The MiG-17 was a refined version of the famous MiG-15 used by the North Vietnamese Air Force.
- The MiG-21 was first flown in 1955 and quickly became a popular aircraft withmany Communist countries.
- A diorama in the Southeast Asia Gallery Honors A1C William H. Pitsenbarger, a Pararescueman who was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his heroic action treating wounded soldiers under heavy enemy fire.
- Boeing B-52D “Stratofortress” dominates the Southeast Asia Gallery.
- At the north end of the Southeast Asia Gallery is the Lockheed EC-121D “Constellation.” It provided Early Warning of enemy aircraft by detecting and tracking the aircraft with electronic gear in the largeradome above and between the fuselage.
- The Cold War lasted approximately 45 years and was a time of tense stand-off between the western powers and the communist bloc.
- The Lockheed F-104 "Starlighter" was designed as a supersonic air superiority fighter after the Korean War. It was the first aircraft to hold simultaneous official world records for speed, altitude and time-to-climb.
- The Fairchild-Republic A-10 "Thunderbolt II" is the premier anti-tank aircraft in the world today. Behind it is the Lockheed C-130 gunship used during the Cold War in Southeast Asia and other international hotspots.
- The Lockhead F-117 stealth fighter-bomber has proven its worth from Panama to Southwest Asia.
- The General Dynamics F-16 "Fighting Falcon" is a Versatile fighting plane for the USAF and many other nations.
- The B-2 Stealth bomber is capable of delivering large payloads of conventional or nuclear weapons without being detected by enemy radar.
- Emerging as a separate service in 1947, the United States Air Force was a major element of U.S. strategy to deton the Soviets from starting a major conflict after WWII.
- The Cold War lasted approximately 45 years and was a time of tense stand-off between the western powers and the communist bloc.
- Entering into the Cold War Gallery is a unique experience. The B-36 "Peacemaker" and the atom bomb were counted on a America's major deterrents to aggression in the early days of The Cold War.
- Boeing's B-47 "Stratojet" series of aircraft was the most produced medium jet bomber of the Cold War.
- The Boeing KC-97L was the tanker version of the C-97 "Stratofreighter".
- The Douglas C-133 "Cargomaster" was developer in the mid-1959s to fulfill USAF requirements for a large capacity strategic cargo aircraft.
- Grumman HU-16B "Albatros"
- The Mc-Donnell-Douglas F-15 "Eagle" has proved to be a higly effective post-Vietnam air superiority fighter.
Missile and Space
- The Presidential Gallery Overview
- The Douglas C-54C “Skymaster” was the first aircraft specifically outfitted for a U.S president, in this case Franlin D. Roosevelt.
- The Douglas VC-118 “Liftmaster” was used by President Truman who named it the “Independence” after his hometown.
- The Lockheed VC-121E “Constellation” was used extensively by President Eisenhower.
- The Boeing VC-137C served every president from President Kennedy to President Clinton.
- Aero Commander U-4B-This aircraft was used by President Eisenhower on short trips between Washington and his home at Gettysburg.
- Lockheed VC-140 “Jet Start” -Carried Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan on numerous occasions.
- Beech VC-6A- For a number of Years, this aircraft transported President Lyndon Johnson family ranch.
- Bell UH-13J “Sioux” – One of the first two presidential helicopters. The Museum’s helicopter, along with its sister ship, were assigned.
- The Bell P-59B provided early jet training and experience for the Army Air Forces
- The General Dynamics AFTI/F-16 used an advanced control configured F-16 aircraft that could make flat, ubanked turns.
- Douglas X-3 –Designed to test features of an aircraft suitable for sustained flights at supersonic speeds and high altitudes.
- Northrup X-4 –Developed for the study of flight characteristics of swept wing, semi-tailless aircraft at transonic speeds.
- Bell-X-5- The world’s first airplane to vary the sweepback of its wings in flight.
- One of the most fascinating aircraft in the Research & Development/Flight Test Gallery is the North American XB-70 “Valkyrie”.
- The Republic XF-84H “Thunderstreak” was a joint Air Force/Navy project designed to combine the speed of a jet with the long-range, low-fuel consumption and low landing speed of a prop driven aircraft.
- The Convair XF-92 explored the delta wing configuration for flighter type aircraft.
- The Chance-Vought XC-142A was a tilt-wing experimental aircraft designed to investigate the operational suitability of vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL)transports
- The North American X-15A-2 was designed to provide data on material and human factors of high-speed, high-altitude flight, made the first manned probes into the lower edges of space.
- The Enlisted Heritage exhibit displays various uniforms of the Air Force and its predecessor organizations.
- The Holocaust exhibit uses photographs and a video display to tell the story of the effort by the Nazis to exterminate the jews of Europe.
- During World War II, almost 36,000 Army Forces (AAF) personnel were confined in Prison of War (POW) camps in Europe.
- For more than 50 Years, Bob Hope entertained men and women of the United States Air Force and the other services at home and overseas, is peace and in war.
- The Eighth Air Force Control Tower and Nissen Huts.
- Red River Valley Fighter Pilot Assn.
- Some larger aircraft are in the AirPark just north of the Museum entrance. Nearby sits a replica of an Eighth Air Force control tower similar to the ones used by the U.S. Army Air Forces in England during WWII.
- Fourteenth Air Force Memorial.
- China-Burma-India Theater Hump Pilot Association Memorial.
- Outside the south entrance, one can find the Museum's Memorial Park containing over 450 memorials to Air Force organizations and individuals.
- One of two memorial walls that can accommodate 128 memorial plaques.
- One of the two Nissen Huts is outfitted as a World War II squadron bar.
- At the entrance to the Memorial Park is a special area commemorating the courageous actions of Air Force personnel who have won the nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor.
National Aviation Hall of Fame