Boeing Museum of Flight – Home of Exciting Aviation History

The Best Aviation Museum Experience Anywhere

If you’ve never been to the Boeing Museum of Flight, words can’t adequately describe how awesome an experience it is. If you love aviation like I do, it’s like a day at Disney. You simply have to go there and you’ll be a fan for life. The following are just some of my personal preferences, but there are a lot of exhibits to see. Be sure to get your Visitor Guide + Map booklet when you enter (a docent will likely be handing them out) to take advantage of all that you can. There’s a lot to see and do (and a lot of walking as well) and there’s even a pretty decent food court with a good selection for almost any taste…and there’s beer!

Boeing 247D
The Boeing 247D, the first commercial airliner
Daring men, armed with little more than mechanical aptitude…took to the skies.
early Boeing worker
Model of an early Boeing worker in ‘The Red Barn’, the first Boeing factory.

Aviation by now has a long and rich history. One of the aspects that makes it so engaging is its romantic beginnings. Daring men, armed with little more than mechanical aptitude and an intrepid spirit of discovery, bolted together flimsy contraptions in their garages and sheds, and tentatively took to the skies. Men like Orville and Wilbur Wright, Glen Curtiss, William Boeing, and later with more advanced designs and methods, Howard Hughes…changed the way we live and travel. Depending on your age, your parents and grandparents were the first people in the history of the world to know long distance travel via airplane as a part of everyday life. In fact, the first modern airliner, the Boeing 247D, is the first aircraft you see walking up to the museum entrance. It entered service in 1933. The museum’s 247 has been completely restored over a period of many years, with the help of volunteers. I can remember the days (as a kid) when it was a big deal to take a jet airliner someplace exciting—like London or Bermuda…everyone got dressed up. The flight attendants, then called ‘steward’ or ‘stewardess’ were polite and courteous, ready to see to your every need with regal appointment. And no airplane trip would be complete without a visit to the cockpit. (Try doing that in today’s post-9/11 world) The captain would always ask, “So, do you want to be a pilot?” Man, if I had that question to answer again my response would be an emphatic, “Yes I do!”. Didn’t every kid want to be a pilot? It wouldn’t be until my 50’s when a burning desire to learn to fly would take hold…but better late than never.

Lockheed 1049G Super Constellation
Lockheed 1049G Super Constellation

Boeing Museum of Flight has one of the best air museum experiences anywhere, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. There are certainly other museums that offer a great experience as well, some of which are included here on my blog. But this is the largest independent air and space museum in the world[1] and the most complete, with not only historic aircraft but original documents and artifacts as well. The East Campus building has dedicated display halls of aircraft from WWI and WWII, a huge Great Gallery of over 40 historic aircraft, various other galleries of air and space exhibits, and the outdoor Airpark adjacent to the main entrance. The latter includes the Lockheed 1049G Super Constellation or “Connie” pictured above—this was the last of the large propeller-driven airliners—a Boeing 727-022, and the original Boeing VC-137B Air Force One. This aircraft is a specially built Boeing 707-120, and you can learn more about it on this page of the MOF’s web site.

Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk
Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk

Some of the most legendary WWII warplanes are housed in the J Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing. All of my favorites are here: The Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk (the British and Russian air forces designated later model equivalents as “Tomahawk” and “Kittyhawk”), the North American P-51 Mustang, the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair, built under license from Chance Vought, builder of the F-4U Corsair, and the Lockheed P-38 Lighting. Some of the engines that powered these aircraft are also on display, like the Allison 1710 V-12 and the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 “Double Wasp”. There’s also a bitchin’ Messerschmitt Bf 109, a super cool German fighter aircraft. There are many pristine WWII fighters in this exhibit, along with original artwork and genuine pilot artifacts and history. You’ll spend a lot of time just taking in everything this exhibit has to offer.

Messerschmitt Bf 109
Messerschmitt Bf 109

After that, you can head into The Red Barn—the original Boeing Airplane Company Factory—before taking the elevated walkway across East Marginal Way to the West Campus, where the huge Charles Simonyi Space Gallery awaits, and—my other favorite—the new outdoor Aviation Pavilion. There are some very large and legendary aircraft housed there, and you can see them in my other Museum of Flight post.

Works Cited
1. “About the Museum.” The Museum of Flight, http://www.museumofflight.org/About-Us/. Accessed 29 Aug. 2016.

Author: jamestcallahan

James T. Callahan is a commercial and fine art photographer based in Hillsborough, New Jersey. His specializations are in product, industrial and architecture. His fine art work takes a poetic look at the American Landscape through 19th Century architecture, historic and abandoned railroads and the American Small Town. You can see his work on his website at www.jamestcallahanphotographer.com, and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/jamestcallahan/.

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