The Prairie Aviation Museum, located in Bloomington, Illinois, aims to educate, entertain and inspire visitors with its meticulously preserved collection of aircraft, artifacts and memorabilia relating to aviation. It is here that visitors can explore more than a century of flight – from the earliest times that man took to the skies, through the developments that have brought us to high-tech aviation as we know it today. The story of flight is a fascinating one, and the Prairie Aviation Museum aims to keep that story alive for the benefit of current and future generations.
Featuring permanent and rotating exhibits, the Prairie Aviation Museum also has a mini-theater and historical aircraft and vehicles displayed outdoors. The museums Carrier Display documents developments in Naval air power, including that of aircraft carriers, following the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan in 1941. The Charles Lindbergh Display details events related to this legendary pioneer of flight who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 33.5 hours in 1927. Other displays include the Illinois Astronauts Gallery, Link Trainer Display and Rosie the Riveter – the iconic image dedicated to women working in defense plants during WWII.
Many of the military aircraft at the museum are on loan for public display, with the proviso that these aircraft be accurately restored to their original state. This rather daunting task requires intensive research into the history of each aircraft, followed by hours of painstaking restoration work. With the assistance of outside resources, most of this work is done by volunteers, as they diligently restore aircraft in compliance with requirements set out by the United States Air Force and Navy Museums. The work does not stop once the aircraft are restored and approved for display, as maintaining the aircraft is an ongoing process. To this end, member volunteers and visitors are encouraged to adopt an aircraft, and then make it a group project to keep it in mint condition.
With nine aircraft at the museum, and plans to add to the collection, there is always a call for new volunteers at the Prairie Aviation Museum. Aircraft on display are: A-4 Skyhawk; A-7 Corsair II; AH-IJ SeaCobra; F-4N Phantom; F-14D Tomcar; F-100 Super Sabre; T-33 Shooting Star; T-38 Talon; and UH-1H Huey. Volunteers of all ages offer their skills, experience, time and effort to help preserve aviation history at the museum. Some of the work carried out by volunteers include administration, public speaking, advertising, mechanics, maintenance, pilots, engineers, security, restoration, wood working, art, transportation, writing, tour guide, photography, video, radio, public relations, history and research.
By means of flight simulators, visitors to the Prairie Aviation Museum will have the opportunity to get behind the controls of an aircraft in an immersive virtual environment to experience the wonders of flight, without a pilot’s license. Certainly a visit to the Prairie Aviation Museum is an outing that the whole family can enjoy and will no doubt engender new respect for the pioneers of flight, and the developments that have taken place over the years.
Affiliated with the renowned Smithsonian Institution, the College Park Aviation Museum in the State of Maryland provides educational exhibits, programs, tours, and special events for the general public, school groups and tourists. Located on the grounds of the airport where Wilbur Wright gave flight instruction to the very first military aviators in 1909, the museum was opened in 1998 and is dedicated to researching and promoting the history of the development of aviation.
The state-of-the art building covers an area of 27,000 square feet, with areas large enough to display original and replicated historic aircraft along with a host of artifacts and multi-media information – making the world of aviation both entertaining and educational. Interpretive areas and hands-on activities ensure that children of all ages come to appreciate the wonders of flight, and exhibits change on a monthly basis to keep visitors coming back time and again. The museum offers a venue with a difference for children’s birthday parties, and events such as the Model Rocket Workshop can be enjoyed by all ages.
With more than a century of aviation history, College Park Airport is the oldest continually operating airport in the world. In addition to its association with the famous Wright Brothers, the airport has been home to some significant milestones in aviation history. For example, in October 1909, Lieutenant Frederic Humphreys was the first military pilot to fly solo in a military airplane after receiving flight instruction from Wilbur Wright. In 1911 the first Army Aviation School was opened at the airport, and in the same year the first bomb-aiming device was tested when inert bombs were dropped from the air, using a bomb-sight invented by Riley E. Scott. In 1912, a Lewis Machine Gun was fired from a Wright B airplane, and Lieutenant Henry “Hap” Arnold achieved the first mile-high flight. The first US Postal Air Mail Service operated from College Park Airport between 1918 and 1921, and in 1924 the first controlled helicopter flight was successfully carried out. Between 1927 and 1935 the Bureau of Standards developed and tested the first radio navigational aids.
Today aviation seems to know no bounds, with new innovations taking place at breath-taking speed. The College Park Aviation Museum recognizes these innovations, while paying tribute to the pioneering adventurers who first took to the skies.