The much-anticipated and highly respected Pacific Aviation Museum first opened its doors to the public on December 7, 2006, in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Situated on Ford Island, a part of Pearl Harbor, the aviation museum in Oahu is a recognized National Historic Landmark and the location of the United States' very first aviation battlefield. Through a wealth of exhibits, relics, videos, and more, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum recounts the experiences of military aviation crews in the Pacific islands throughout World War II.
By far the most renowned area inside the museum is Hangar 37. It houses the initial phase of the museum, encompassing more than 42,000 square feet in total. The massive area features a variety of exhibits and tells stories of the Vietnam, Korean, and Cold wars. Additional phases of the museum are to be in both Hangar 54 and Hangar 79. There are several excellent highlights located throughout Hangar 37 providing lots of things to do for visitors.
The 1942 Stearman Biplane was once flown by U.S. President George H.W. Bush when he was first learning to fly. At the time, he was one of the youngest American pilots in the Second World War. The Battle of Niihau Display recites the tale of Niihau residents who ensnared Japanese pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi when he crashed on Oahu after attacks on Bellows Army Air Field and Kaneohe Bay in 1941. Other major highlights inside Hangar 37 include the Japanese Zero Fighter, Aeronca 65TC, which was the first American plane in WWII employed in combat, and the twin-engine Army Air Corps B-25 Mitchell bomber.
Another exciting component of the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is the flight simulator. Adding to the historical reproductions, the flight simulator affords a chance to feel the excitement of handling a simulated fighter plane. Visitors can choose either a Japanese or American plane to fly and use the radio to communicate with other pilots, all while experiencing a bird's eye view, just as a real pilot. Upon leaving the museum, not only will visitors know what it feels like to fly a military plane, they will also have learned of the struggles, sacrifices, and patriotism of both civilian men and women as well as the military throughout the Pacific region.
Upon entering the museum, visitors watch a brief documentary about military aviation in the Pacific. The documentary also explains the history surrounding Ford Island, the main target of the Japanese attacks in 1941. In addition to the aircraft exhibits, the Pacific Aviation Museum also displays a number of other historical collections of memorabilia, and through a variety of dioramas it tells the stories of the men who flew the planes on display, as well as what the aviation military went through during the attack on Pearl Harbor and in other wars. These commemorative stories make a visit to the aviation museum in Oahu truly affecting.
Though getting to the Pacific Aviation Museum can be slightly cumbersome, a visit is highly recommended during Oahu vacations. To reach the aviation museum in Oahu, tourists must park rental cars or other vehicles at the Arizona Memorial lot, buy tickets at the USS Bowfin ticket office, and then take the trolley outside of the USS Bowfin Memorial to the museum. High security levels are active at all times, meaning cameras are allowed but absolutely no bags can be taken along.
In spite of the little hassle of getting there, don't miss one of Oahu's most important historical attractions. With all three hangars complete, the Pacific Aviation Museum will be a definite must-see on Oahu and offer an important interpretation of the military aviation role in the fight for American freedom. When visiting the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum near Honolulu, also consider visiting Pearl Harbor, the Punchbowl, and the USS Arizona Memorial for a complete picture of the historical events that occurred on December 7, 1941.
Image: Pacific Aviation Museum