Air Force One, the Concorde, the Space Shuttle Trainer, the first fighter plane, and many more remarkable aircraft are just a short drive south of Seattle in Tukwila, WA, home of the largest private non-profit aviation museum in the West.
The Museum of Flight http://www.museumofflight.org is located at the King County International Airport on Boeing Field and has more than 150 aircraft plus interactive exhibitions, rare photographs, films, newsreels, memorabilia and much more. Exhibits take visitors on a fascinating journey from the earliest days of aviation, to the moon, and back to the present.
After purchasing tickets inside the Museum of Flight, come back outside and climb aboard some of the most iconic aircraft to ever take flight. The outdoor exhibits close before the museum does.
Just outside on the Boeing Field, the first jet used as Air Force One, a specially constructed Boeing 707-120 called SAM (Special Air Missions) 970, is open for touring. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon and numerous dignitaries traveled the world aboard this particular aircraft. Kennedy’s pipe rack, Johnson’s hat rack, the safe where the president’s secret nuclear codes were kept, “Press Section” seating and the president’s private quarters are all on view.
The world’s fastest commercial jet, one of only 20 Concordes ever built, is on display outside the Museum, too. Courtesy of British Airways, guests can tour this compact aircraft. We were surprised at just how narrow the cabin was.
At the other end of the spectrum, guests can visit Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, one of the most fuel efficient commercial airliners to take to the skies, according to the company.
Also on the field is a US Air 737, which now serves as a theater for those interested in viewing Time Flies: Century of Flight.
Back inside the Museum, guests can trace the history of aviation from its earliest days right up to the present. The Red Barn, where the Boeing Company began, is part of the Museum today and gives guests an excellent historical perspective on the development of commercial aviation.
The Museum has displays of every imaginable aircraft from the Taylor Aerocar III—AKA the “car plane”, which actually did take flight as a film clearly shows; to all manor of military aircraft, including the first fighter plane, the Italian built Caproni Ca.20; to planes used to deliver mail in Alaska and newspapers in the Midwest and much more.
There are even miniature planes. The Holtgrewe WWII Model Collection has more than 400 1/72 scale models of military aircraft used by most of the countries who became combatants in the second world war. Another marvelous miniature is the 1/10 scale model of the Montgolfier Brothers’ Balloon on display in the Museum’s lobby.
The U.S. Space Program is well represented, too. Visitors can track America’s race to space from its earliest days to the present. There are photographs, magazine and newspaper articles, films and news reels, exhibits on the animals used in space program, space suits worn by U.S. Astronauts and Soviet Cosmonauts, and a vast assortment of memorabilia from moon rocks to the cowboy boots worn by a famous test pilot. Apollo 17 Mission Models and the only Mars Viking lander still here on Earth are also at the Museum.
Guests can also walk through the Space Shuttle Trainer Crew Compartment where U.S. astronauts trained for every Shuttle mission. A separate 30- minute tour of the Trainer is available for an additional fee for visitors 10 years and older. Tours of the Boeing Field are also offered for an additional fee.
There are numerous flight simulators, exhibits on every aspect of aviation including rocketry and “spacebots”, a research library, aviation advertising, and so much more for visitors to see.
There is so much to see and experience at the Museum that many visitors will not be able to enjoy all that is on offer in one day. Happily, discounted return tickets are available so take your time and come back again.