Home National museum Visit the aviation museum par excellence: the National Museum of the United States Air Force

Visit the aviation museum par excellence: the National Museum of the United States Air Force

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Geoff Morrison/CNET

There are a ton of great air museums all over the world, from Royal Air Force Museum in London at Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona and the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington, DC. It has to be argued, however, that best of all is found in Dayton, Ohio. There, on the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the National Museum of the US Air Force has a massive collection of rare and important aircraft from throughout aviation history.

With fragile bombers from the First World War, supersonic fighters from the Cold War and experimental aircraft that have touched the far reaches of space, all eras are represented. Most also have impressive stories. You’ll see the Memphis Belle is here, so famous they made a movie about her and her crew, and Bockscar, the B-29 that dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. And best of all, the planes are impeccably restored and maintained.

It’s spread over five hangars, with hundreds of planes, and I spent a whole day exploring the museum for my 10,000 mile road trip. Honestly, I could have stayed a day or three longer. Here’s a look at some of the museum’s highlights.

legends of the sky

I visited many air museums, and this one has been on my bucket list for years. But the timing never seemed to work. To be honest, Dayton isn’t exactly a tourist mecca. But I’m glad I finally made it. The museum’s huge collection spills out onto the outside, with a C-17 and an A-10 on display before you even enter the museum. Once inside, it makes sense to start chronologically. The Early Years Gallery has the oldest planes, many of which are over 100 years old at this point. The fabric, cable and woodworking machines of the First World War are so open and so delicate that it seems impossible that they could fly.

Going back a few decades, the World War II Gallery owns the Memphis Belle B-17 and the Bockscar. There are also early jet aircraft like the Me 262 and the rare rocket-powered Me 163. The Southeast Asian War and Cold War galleries feature huge bombers like the B-52 and B-36, as well as stealth aircraft like the F-117 and B-2.

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From a C-124.

Geoff Morrison/CNET

The last hangar, the Research & Development Gallery, is perhaps the best. It features experimental aircraft like the X-29 with its forward-swept wings, the dart-shaped Douglas X-3 Stiletto, and my favorite plane in the museum, the only remaining XB-70.

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Experimental aircraft in the Research & Development gallery.

Geoff Morrison/CNET

The XB-70 Valkyrie was a Mach 3 capable bomber. It looks like a Concorde drawn at a right angle, or something out of a cartoon. Delta wings are all straight lines and sharp edges. The six massive GE YJ93-GE-3 turbojet engines look like they could launch the massive craft into space. Even standing up, he looks fast. Only two were built and the other tragically crashed.

fly high

the National Museum of the US Air Force is an amazing place to visit, and I had a blast. To give you an idea of ​​all there is to see, during one of my normal photo tours for CNET, I will take about 400 photos. Here I took over 1000. I arrived when they opened and left when they closed and still feel like I was rushed.

Perhaps most amazingly, it’s completely free. The museum is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. If your own road trip plans don’t put you near Dayton anytime soon, check out the gallery above for a closer look at some of the museum’s highlights. I couldn’t feature them all, but I took a close look at a few dozen of my favorites.


As well as covering TV and other display technology, Geoff takes photographic tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000 mile road trips, and more. Check out Tech Treks for all of its tours and adventures.

He wrote a bestselling science fiction novel on city-sized submarines, as well as a following. You can follow his adventures on instagram and his Youtube channel.