National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (Dayton)

You may (or may not) know that the world’s largest military aviation museum is in Dayton, Ohio right next to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force has more than 360 aircraft and missiles in its 19 acres of indoor space.  The facility’s fourth building had its grand opening June 8, 2016.  It looks and feels a lot different than the other three buildings, some of that is due to the new building having all LED lighting whereas the other buildings primarily have florescent lighting.  And now with the 4th building being open, one no longer has to go onto the actual Air Force Base to see Air Force One, among other aircraft.

Air Force One (1280x853)
The Air Force One found in the Museum’s fourth building was the first aircraft built specifically for the President; in this case it was John F. Kennedy. It became the backup Air Force One in 1972 when a new Boeing VC-137C was acquired by the Air Force. This Air Force One was retired from the Presidential fleet in 1990 and arrived at the Air Force Museum in May 1998.


I thought of Air Force One as being huge but the 4th building is big itself that the President’s jet doesn’t look as big anymore.  Something else I noticed that may not seem big but it depends on how long you can stay on your feet and that is there are chairs throughout the all the buildings should you need to take a rest because there is so much to see in the museum.  There are seats that cost $8 to use but that’s because they’re in one of the two state of the art aircraft simulators.  There is a Space Shuttle simulator next to the Shuttle trainer; that simulator is free.

Replica of the 1909 Wright Military Flyer was constructed in 1955
Replica of the 1909 Wright Military Flyer was constructed in 1955.


One of the great things about the museum being free is just that.  If you really want to take your time and enjoy it, you can take as many days to see it as you’d like.  The youngest of children may not want to drag out a visit, however there is a swing set outside of the museum for the (much) younger crowd.  There are a couple of picnic pavilions outside of the museum should you decide to picnic.  If you wish to eat inside, there are two options: Valkyrie Café on the second floor, above the museum store and there is also the Refueling Cafe which is on the mezzanine between the Cold War Gallery and the Fourth Building.  This means that you can get a bird’s-eye view of both.

Curtiss P-40E Warhawk (1280x853)
The Curtiss P-40E Warhawk on display is a Kittyhawk (the export version of the P-40E built for the RAF). It is painted to represent the aircraft flown by then-Col. Bruce Holloway, a pilot in both the Flying Tigers and its successor Army Air Forces unit, the 23rd Fighter Group.

Also on site is a 400-seat movie theater that shows 3D movies on a 80-foot by 60-foot screen which is the largest in Southwest Ohio.  They show documentaries every half-hour starting at 10:30 AM.  On the 4th Sunday of every month, the 4 PM movie is replaced with a Hollywood film instead.  On 8/28/16, Jurassic World will be shown; on 9/25/16 they will show the Peanuts movie; on 10/23/16 it’s the Goonies; Batman vs. Superman on 11/27/16, and to wrap up the 2016 Hollywood movie showings will be Frozen on December 11th, which I know is not the 4th Sunday of December but I’m guessing that’s scheduled early to avoid the holidays at the end of the year.  The Hollywood Series movies cost $5/person.

Southeast Asia War Gallery (1280x570)
The Southeast Asia War Gallery. Or what is known as the War in Vietnam. The aircraft in this gallery is not necessarily exclusive to that war but it’s primary use was in Southeast Asia.

Every attempt to make the museum wheelchair accessible has been made.  Some places that’s not really possible and that’s mostly in the case of the aircraft that visitors can step aboard, such as Air Force One and Columbine III.  Not only do you have to walk up the steps but there is (I think) plastic along the passenger compartment so as to protect the plane’s interior.  That makes it a narrow aisle so if you’re a larger person or have really wide shoulders, walk sideways!  Right before the steps to the planes that you can walk through is a plastic (or possibly plexiglas) archway so you can tell before you even climb up the steps whether you’ll fit though the narrow walkway on the aircraft.

Lockheed AC-130A Spectre Gunship (1280x853)
There are still a few aircraft sitting outside the museum such as this Lockheed AC-130A Spectre Gunship.


Admission to the museum itself is free and there are also free guided tours that go on during the day as well.  Announcements are made over the PA system to remind visitors when a guided tour is starting.  Other announcements you will hear remind visitors the food and drinks (including water) are to stay in the cafe and that they don’t want kids running around the museum [but they say that much nicer than I did].  You will learn a lot at the museum.  The thing that struck me was just how fast we went from the Wright brothers flying their plane just a few hundred feet and barely 10 years later the Army had machine guns on planes fighting in World War I.

Air Force Museum Building Four (1280x853)
View of the Air Force Museum’s fourth building. You can barely see it in the back, but Air Force One is there. On the right is a Space Shuttle Crew Compartment Trainer. It is one of three Space Shuttle mockups used to train astronauts from 1981-2011.

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433

[Your GPS may or may not like Wright-Patterson AFB, OH; mine is a Garmin and it accepted the same street address but with Riverside, OH as the city.]

Admission:  Free for the Museum

Simulators:  $8/person; Morphis Movie Ride:  $7/person; Pulseworks VR (virtual reality) Transporter:  $10/person; Pulseworks ESP Motion Ride:  $7/person or $5/person under 42 inches tall.

Movie theater prices:  Adult – $8; Seniors (60 yrs +) and Military (Active, Reserves, Guard, Retired, Dependents) – $7 ; Members and children (3-12 years) – $6.  Discout of $.50 off per ticket if you purchase 2 or more shows together.  Hollywood movies series – $5 each.

Hours:  Museum and Museum store:  9 AM – 5 PM everyday.  Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day; Refueling and Valkyrie Cafes:  10 AM – 4:30 PM

Distance from Ohio cities:

  • 73 miles West of Columbus
  • 62 miles North of Cincinnati
  • 228 miles Southwest of Cleveland
  • 206 miles Southwest of Akron
  • 158 miles South of Toledo
  • 6.1 miles Northeast of Dayton City Hall








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