history of the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft

Aviation history in the context of museum and history tourism invokes various aspects of science tourism, including both civil and military aviation.

Understand edit

The Wright Flyer on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington
Map of Aviation history

The question of "where and when was the first powered flight" is controversial; some say it was made in Kitty Hawk in 1903 by the Wright brothers on their Flyer (a catapult was needed, and witness report is scarce as the Wright brothers worked in secrecy and were afraid of industrial espionage); others give this honor to Brazilian inventor Alberto Santos-Dumont and his 14-bis. On 23 October 1906, he took off under the aircraft's own power before a large crowd of witnesses, at the grounds of Paris' Château de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne, for a distance of 60 m (197 ft) at a height of about 5 m (16 ft), the first powered heavier-than-air flight in Europe to be certified by the Aéro Club de France and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). This controversy is not meant to be a subject of a travel guide, but repays study to science and history aficionados.

However, this wasn't the first time man was flying. Otto Lilienthal experimented with gliders a decade before, and already in 1783 the Montgolfier brothers took off in the world's first manned hot air balloon. Even though "lighter than air" flight had thus been proved feasible in the 18th century, throughout much of the 19th century many people - including respected scientists like Lord Kelvin - doubted that "heavier than air" aviation would ever become possible. However, the brothers Wright proved the skeptics wrong and by the time World War I began, planes had become a military asset in reconnaissance if not necessarily in the fighting. While Zeppelins were an impressive feat of human engineering, their high up front investment cost and their initial technological problems that were only figured out by the time the Hindenburg disaster (owing due to highly flammable hydrogen being used instead of helium which at the time was almost entirely under US control) happened, stalled their development in the 1930s.

Today blimps, airships that unlike Zeppelins get their shape from gas pressure rather than an interior skeleton, are a minor factor in aviation and like balloons are a sideshow in today's aviation picture that is dominated by "heavier than air" to the point that flying is almost universally understood to mean airplanes.

Military aviation edit

See also: Military tourism

Balloons had seen some occasional usage for reconnaissance during the 19th century. Austrian troops bombed Venice from the air in 1849 and the American Civil War saw reconnaissance balloons, which were however hampered by the lack of efficient long distance communication like radio. Aviation was however dismissed as a tool by many military experts even after the first practicable airplanes emerged. Aviation played a small role in the Great War but became a major contributor (and strategic component) in World War II. World War I produced the first "flying aces", pilots who were celebrated for their prowess in air to air combat and there was much mythology around the supposed chivalry of aerial combat compared to the increasingly brutal, senseless and industrialized slaughter in the trenches — however, most of those stories have little basis in fact.

An aerial attack on Pearl Harbor was a key step in the escalation of the Pacific War, while bombing of cities and civilian populations was widespread in World War II in Europe. Cities like Coventry, Guernica, Rotterdam (bombed after the Netherlands had already surrendered) and later Hamburg, Dresden or Berlin were leveled almost entirely by aerial bombardment and bear the scars of this new type of warfare to this day. Timber framed houses and a densely built historical old town used to be hallmarks of most cities in central Europe, but the bombing (and subsequent short-sighted urban planning) ensured that they would become a rarity in major cities. Aviation also revolutionized military logistics. While earlier an army had to chose between moving along supply lines or keeping to a deliberate pace while supply lines in their rear were ensured or "living off the land", by the time of World War II it became conceivable to supply an army by air and as the Soviets had to learn during the 1940s Berlin blockade, the same applied to entire civilian cities. While the common image of the "raisin bomber" has them delivering mostly food, as a matter of fact coal was the single most common delivery item and the planes even flew in an entire power plant for West-Berlin which had until then depended partially on the surrounding area for its power needs. In Southeast Asia, the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter would gain a fearsome reputation, as the outdated aircraft left behind by the British to defend their colonies were no match for the more advanced Japanese fighters. The tide of the war would eventually begin to turn against Japan in the Battle of Midway, June 1942, when the Americans sank Japan's four largest aircraft carriers and were thus able to gain aerial superiority for the rest of the war.

The Korean War and Vietnam War saw aerial bombardment on a heretofore unprecedented scale and there were more bombs dropped on the jungles of Indochina during that war than on the cities of Europe during World War II. There have thankfully been few symmetric wars since, but industrial powers often use aerial bombardment in asymmetric wars as it poses less danger to their own soldiers than ground fighting. However, it is harder to distinguish civilians from military targets from the air, a fact that insurgents, terrorist groups and others sometimes use as a military tactic and for propaganda efforts. Aerial superiority would once again prove crucial in the 1982 Falklands War, where the Argentine Dassault Mirage IIIEA and Douglas A-4 Skyhawk aircraft proved no match for the British Harriers, eventually leading to victory for the British and the surrender of the Argentinian occupation force. The huge distances involved also showed the limits of even a modern military to project its power as many airplanes had to refuel in the Azores and Tristan da Cunha on their way from the British mainland to the Falklands.

Commercial air travel edit

Airlines were offering flights to the other side of the world as early as the 1930s.

Commercial heavier than air air travel was born in the years between the two world wars, and saw flying become a viable transport option for travelling long distance. Some of today's global aviation icons, including Australia's Qantas, the Netherlands' KLM and Air France were founded during that period. Delta Air Lines can also trace its origins back to several companies founded in the 1920s. In the interwar period, Germany, which had been forbidden to develop military aviation under the Versailles Treaty developed a "civil" aviation program that just "happened to" include airplanes that were virtually identical in form, performance, payload capability, range and speed to then-current military models. In that era the first incarnation of Deutsche Luft-Hansa was founded, but the current company of that name is legally distinct from the modern day Lufthansa, which Lufthansa likes to point out when their 1932 PR flights for Hitler or wartime crimes are the topic of conversation, but likes to forget when old interwar airplanes are flown around in the name of tradition.

Numerous factors, not least of which military considerations and the fact that many high-ranking Nazis personally disliked Zeppelins (Göring had been a military pilot in World War I) as well as the fact that the US did not wish to deliver helium to Nazi Germany, causing Zeppelins to continue to be filled with flammable Hydrogen, led to a chain of events that ended the only notable passenger Zeppelin program. While airships of some forms continue to have certain military applications and are still used for their novelty value in sightseeing and advertising, overall the "golden era" of the rigid airship went up in smoke in Lakehurst in 1937.

The 1950s and 1960s became known as the "Golden Age of Air Travel", when flying was a privilege only for the filthy rich, and airlines competed with each other to offer the most luxurious onboard service with the most attractive stewardesses. The introduction of the first jet airliner, the de Havilland Comet, in 1952 ushered in the jet age, which allowed aircraft to cover distances more quickly than ever before. Some icons of that era include Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) and Trans World Airlines (TWA) of the United States, which closed down in 1991 and 2001 respectively, and British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), which was merged into British Airways in 1974. Among the most prestigious airline routes from that era are the London-New York and London-Sydney routes, which continue to be operated as the flagship routes of British Airways and Qantas Respectively.

In the 1970s, two iconic airliners were introduced into commercial passenger service: the Boeing 747, also known as the Jumbo Jet, in 1970, and the supersonic Concorde in 1976. The Concorde would cover the distance between London's Heathrow Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in under 3 hours, shaving over 2 hours off the time taken by subsonic jets. However, due to its high operating cost, ticket prices on the Concorde were exorbitant (even more expensive than first class on subsonic airliners), making it a popular aircraft for celebrities, but otherwise unaffordable for much of the general public. The Concorde would cease to operate in the early 21st century, with British Airways retiring their last Concorde in 2003. While the Concorde was a limited commercial success for Air France and British Airways, it was never even close to recovering any of the development costs invested by the French and British states, driving Europe towards consolidation in aircraft manufacture. At the same time, the Soviet supersonic plane, the Tupolev Tu-144 fared worse, being withdrawn from service after only a few years. Other supersonic passenger jet proposals, including one by Boeing never went past the planning stage. The Concorde is one of the best preserved planes in history in the sense that a big portion of the total planes produced are still extant and can be visited. In a sense, the Concorde on the ground is more accessible to the average person than it ever was during its flying days. On the other hand, the Boeing 747 was a huge success, becoming the preferred medium to long-haul aircraft for many airlines all over the world (and even for short-haul but high-volume domestic routes in Japan) for over four decades. Production of the Boeing 747 ended in 2022, and it has been largely superseded by newer and more efficient aircraft for passenger service; however, it is still widely used as a freighter.

At the end of the 1970s, deregulation of the airline industry started with the passing of the Airline Deregulation Act in the United States in 1978. This resulted in a fall in ticket prices, making air travel accessible to much of the middle class in developed countries for the first time. However, the advent of stronger anti-discrimination laws in Western countries during that period made it illegal to favour hiring cabin crew of a particular age or gender, marking an end to the era of young, attractive stewardesses. The lower ticket prices would also translate to a fall in service standards in economy class, as airlines were now able to offer less frills in exchange for better prices. In the 1990s, the European Union adopted an increasingly "open skies" policy, which - combined with privatization of the flag carriers, the advent of high speed rail and the fall of the Iron Curtain - led to an intensely competitive market which has still not settled into any sort of stable equilibrium.

In the 1990s, commercial aircraft manufacturing was consolidated into the duopoly of Boeing, based in the United States, and Airbus, based in Western Europe. While the manufacturing of large commercial aircraft is still dominated by the two aforementioned companies, the market for smaller regional aircraft is more competitive, with the most notable manufacturers being Brazil's Embraer and France's Avions de transport régional (ATR), while the regional jet division of Canadian manufacturer Bombardier has been acquired by Airbus. Russian and Chinese manufacturers (with the help and some outright owned by their respective governments) are making an effort to enter the regional jet market and eventually even to challenge the Airbus-Boeing duopoly of bigger jets, but thus far they haven't been all that successful outside of their own countries.

At the beginning of the 21st century, budget carriers expanded exponentially, the best known ones being Southwest Airlines in the United States, Ryanair in Europe and AirAsia in Southeast Asia. These airlines offer a no-frills service with rock-bottom ticket prices, with the option of paying extra for some of the frills offered in full-service airlines, making air travel finally accessible to much of the working class. This has shaken the airline industry to its core, resulting in the bankruptcy of many full-service airlines that were unable to compete, and many of the surviving ones cutting back further on service in economy class in order to offer competitive prices with the budget carriers. At the same time, many airlines are competing to offer the most luxurious first and business class products, with the introduction of lie-flat seats in long-haul business class. This has led to the modern trend where airlines are stripping more and more frills from economy class in order to cut costs, while at the same time offering more and more luxurious first and business class products.

However, low-cost airlines also take advantage of numerous subsidies and underhand business tactics. Airports like Hahn (Germany) never made a profit and can never hope to. If local politicians raise landing fees, the airline abandons the airport. Similarly, pilots are often with an airline for an exceedingly short time and paid much less than industry averages. Some airlines even go as far as implementing "pay to fly" where pilots have to pay for the "privilege" of accruing the flight hours necessary for keeping their license. In 2017 several things happened to Ryanair that called into question their business model, including strike attempts and a severe shortage of pilots not on holiday. Competition from high speed rail seems to be the only serious threat aviation as a mode of transport faces in the 21st century. Many routes in Asia and Europe where trains now take four hours or less from city center to city center have seen airlines forced to cut prices, reduce frequency or drop out of the market entirely. At the same time air rail alliances have ensured that some airlines are able to cut down on uneconomical feeder flights, replacing them with trains.

See edit

Australia edit

Qantas aircraft at the Qantas Founders Museum
See also: Royal Flying Doctor Service tourism, Military museums and sites in Australia
  • 1 Aviation Heritage Centre, Darwin, +61 8 8947 2145. Has an impressive collection of aircraft and displays depicting the Territory’s involvement in aviation from the early pioneers to the jet age. The prize exhibit is a B-52 bomber on permanent loan from the United States Air Force, one of only two on public display outside the U.S. The centre is 8 km from Darwin city and is on the site of fierce air combat that took place overhead during World War II.
  • 2 Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial, Brisbane Airport. Little memorial, dedicated to aviator Charles Kingsford Smith, in short distance to the airport. Its exhibit, the "Southern Cross", a preserved monoplane for which he used for the trans-Tasman flight, is displayed here.
  • 3 Qantas Founders' Museum, Longreach Airport (on the highway, east of town). It's not affiliated with Qantas, but it celebrates their early years in the town that they started from. A range of history and static exhibits. Offers expensive but interesting tours of an ex-Qantas 707 and 747-200 including wing walks and access to the under carriage. A worthy pilgrimage site for air enthusiasts. $21+.    

Brazil edit

  • 4 Brazilian Aerospace Museum (Museu Aeroespacial), Av. Marechal Fontenelle - Sulacap (Rio de Janeiro/Zona Norte), +55 21 2108-8954. Tu-F 9AM-3PM, weekends 9:30AM-4PM. Opened as Campo dos Afonsos airfield, it is the "cradle of Brazilian military aviation" and site of the first aeronautical organization created in Brazil: the Aeroclube do Brasil (Flying club of Brazil), on October 1911. Nowadays, the area is one of the Brazilian Air Force's main airbases, with the adjacent museum, that houses a good collection of planes, engines, etc. including replicas of Santos-Dumont's main machines, the 14-bis and the Demoiselle.    
  • 5 Cabangu Museum (Santos-Dumont's birthplace) (16 km from Santos Dumont, Minas Gerais). The house where Alberto Santos-Dumont was born, in his family's coffee farm, is now a museum dedicated to his childhood.    
  • 6 Santos Dumont's house (A Encantada), Rua do Encanto, 22 (Petrópolis), +55 24 2247 5222. Tu-Su 09:00-17:30 (ticket until 17:00). Nicknamed "The Enchanted", this chalet in Alpine style was Alberto Santos Dumont's summer residence. Having purchased a seemingly useless hillside lot, he smartly designed the house himself, allegedly to win a bet with his friends, who doubted it could be done; nowadays it's a museum showing his objects, books, letters and furniture, as well as some famous domestic inventions of his: an alcohol-fueled hot shower, and an entrance staircase with paddle-shaped steps, which can only be used starting with the right foot. There's also the Centro Cultural 14a, attached to the house, where you can watch a short film about him. The space has tactile models and accessibility for visitors with special needs. R$ 8 (full price), R$ 4 (half price).    

Canada edit

  • 7 National Air Force Museum of Canada (formerly known as the RCAF Memorial Museum), 220 RCAF Road, CFB Trenton (8 Wing) (Trenton, Ontario), +1 613-965-RCAF (7223), toll-free: +1-866-701-7223. 10AM-5PM. Dedicated to preserving the history of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Opened April 1, 1984 on the RCAF's 60th anniversary. Home to a large collection of RCAF aircraft and artifacts, including North America's only Halifax Bomber. Free.
  • 8 Gander International Airport, 1000 James Boulevard (Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador), +1 709-256-6677. Once the main stopover point for trans-Atlantic flights between North America and Europe, it has since declined drastically in importance because advances in technology have led to longer range aircraft that can fly nonstop between the major European and North American cities. However, the 1950s terminal building survives, and Gander's air traffic control continues to play a crucial role in trans-Atlantic flights. On September 11, 2001 many flights were re-routed through the airport and the locals accommodated them in a great spirit of kindness that was celebrated in the news the world over as one piece of good news on a terrible day. Lufthansa (which is in the habit of naming planes after German cities) even named a plane after Gander in honor of the town and its citizens. Free.    
  • 9 Alberta Aviation Museum, 11410 Kingsway NW (Edmonton, Alberta). The site of Canada's first municipally-owned airport, and a major hub of American aviation during the Second World War.    
  • 10 Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum & RCAF WWII Memorial Wall, 300 Commonwealth Way (Brandon, Manitoba). Preserves of the history of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during WWII.    
  • 11 Bomber Command Museum of Canada, 1659 - 21st Ave, Hwy 2 (Nanton, Alberta).    
  • 12 Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame, 4629 McCall Way NE (Calgary, Alberta). First opened in 1974, it relocated in 2022 to the Hanger Flight Museum in Calgary, Alberta.    

China edit

  • 13 China Aviation Museum (中国民航博物馆; Zhōngguó Mínháng Bówùguǎn), Datangshan, Chanping District (昌平区小汤山) (Beijing/Northern Suburbs. About 50km outside Beijing, (as of October 2011) take Bus 643 from Tiantongyuan North Subway Station (天通苑北) on Line 5). 8AM-5:30PM. A must see for all aviation fans. It is probably better known by the name Datangshan. The museum hosts over 200 exhibits, many of them very rare. Entrance to the ground exhibits were free (Oct 2011). There is an entrance fee to the indoor display and hanger ¥20, and an extra ¥10 if you want to board Chairman Mao's plane and another ¥10 to board a DC-8 (Orbis), and ¥10 to sit in a MIG-15.

Finland edit

  • 15 The Aviation Museum of Central Finland, Tikkakoskentie 125 (Tikkakoski district, 20 km from Jyväskylä to north). Small army airplanes and equipment inside a museum building, especially from World War II. Simulator hours (Saturdays; Messerschmitt Bf 109) must be booked in advance. €10/5; simulator €40–70.

France edit

  • 16 Musée de l’air et de l’espace (Le Bourget airport) (11 km from Paris). Le Bourget, London's Croydon and Berlin's Tempelhof were "the trio of Classic European airports" whose design influenced all others that came later. It's famous as the landing site for Charles Lindbergh's historic solo transatlantic crossing in 1927, and as the departure point two weeks earlier for the French biplane The White Bird (L'Oiseau Blanc), which took off in its own attempt at a trans-Atlantic flight but then mysteriously disappeared (the only known remaining piece — the jettisoned main landing gear — is kept here). Now, besides hosting the biannual Paris Air Show, it's France's main state-owned aviation museum. Its highlights include a Concorde prototype, and remnants of the unarmed P-38 flown by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on his last mission, recovered from the Mediterranean Sea.    
Monument to Santos-Dumont flight, Bagatelle field, Paris
  • 17 Bagatelle field (Paris/16th arrondissement). Site of Santos-Dumont's first flight. A monument was built to commemorate this achievement.

Germany edit

Dornier Museum at night

Germany was among the forefront of lighter than air flying for the first third of the 20th century and the name of Count Zeppelin still stands for a rigid, skeleton based airship (as opposed to frameless blimps). Germany also saw aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal conduct more and more audacious experiments until one finally killed him, in part due the then insufficiently understood phenomenon of stall. After Germany lost World War I, the Treaty of Versailles stipulated tight limits on armament, among them the prohibition of an air force. However, even during Weimar times, the government tried to avoid following the rules and the aid to private and civil aviation during the 1920s and 1930s was one way the various governments circumvented those prohibitions. This led both to passenger airlines of high repute (Lufthansa in its first incarnation among them) and an air force (Luftwaffe) in good fighting shape come World War II. Together with new and improved tanks, the latter revolutionized warfare, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. When the Nazis got in power they also encouraged gliding as a hobby to build a stock of young men familiar with aerodynamics and the basics of flying "on the cheap" and again circumventing prohibitions of the Versailles Treaty. Today the remnants of the companies that pioneered German aviation form the core of Airbus, one of the two largest plane manufacturers in the world and even the Zeppelin company is still around building small semi-rigid airships (basically blimps with a keel) as a side venture.

  • 18 Dornier Museum, Claude-Dornier-Platz 1 (close to the Friedrichshafen airport). May-Oct (summer): daily 09:00-17:00. Nov-Apr (winter): Tu-Su 10:00-17:00, M closed. Everybody can be a pioneer – this is the central message of the Dornier Museum Friedrichshafen, opened in the summer of 2009, offering a 100 years of aviation and aerospace history as a fascinating experience. The extraordinary architecture accommodates almost 400 exhibits on 5000 m², including 12 original aircraft, 7 exhibits from space travel and a full-size model. €9 adults, €4.50 children, €7 concessions.
  • 19 Zeppelin Museum, Seestraße 22 (Friedrichshafen). Situated in the historic harbour station building, this museum presents the world‘s largest collection on the subject of airship history, construction and travel. Under the same roof you can visit an important collection of art dating from the late Middle Ages to the present day. The main attraction is the 33 m long reconstruction of part of the LZ 129 Hindenburg in its original size, which visitors can board just as the original passengers did in the 1930s. The authentically fitted passenger rooms give an impression of how people travelled during the period of the “silver giants”. Two entire storeys of the Zeppelin Museum are dedicated to different aspects of Zeppelin history and technology. In addition to the permanent exhibition the museum organizes special events and temporary exhibitions. The Zeppelin company also offers tours with a modern airship produced by Zeppelin albeit not a Zeppelin in the technological sense (i.e. the structure is not held up by an interior skeleton although it does have a keel) starting at €200 a pop. €8 adults, €4 concessions.    
  • 20 Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr (German Air Force Museum; RAF Gatow), Am Flugplatz Gatow 33 (Berlin/North; from S+U Rathaus Spandau, take Bus 135), +49 30 368 7260 1, . At a former Luftwaffe and Royal Air Force (RAF) airfield, RAF Gatow, which served as West Berlin's third airport until 1994. The museum's focus is on military history, particularly the history of the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr, with a collection of more than 200,000 items, including 155 aeroplanes, 5,000 uniforms and 30,000 books. There are also displays (including aeroplanes) on the history of the airfield when it was used by the RAF. Aircraft include reproductions of Otto Lilienthal's gliders, of World War I planes such as the Fokker E.III triplane, and World War II planes such as the Bf 109 and Me-262, as well as at least one aircraft of every type ever to serve in the air forces of East and West Germany. Most of those postwar aircraft are stored outside on the tarmac and runways, however, and many are in bad condition. There are long term restoration projects, including a Focke-Wulf Fw 190.    
  • 21 Technik Museum Sinsheim (close to Sinsheim; signposted from exits 33 or 34 on the A6 Autobahn.). Open daily 09:00-18:00 (closes 19:00 on weekends and public holidays). Has an extensive collection of aircraft as well as vintage and historic cars, motorcycles, and other machinery. Apart from this being the only place on earth where you can find both a Russian Tupolev 144 and its Anglo-French counterpart Concorde, the collection features more than 60 aircraft and helicopters, including two German Ju 52, WWII Messerschmitt BF-109, and a Canadair CL-215 water bomber. Has a partnership with the similarly named Technik Museum Speyer not far away.    
  • 22 Otto Lilienthal Museum, Ellbogenstraße 1 (Anklam, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), +49-3971-245500, . Daily 10:00-17:00. Set up on Lilienthal’s birthplace, founded in 1927. On exhibition are various objects belonging to the life and work of Otto Lilienthal, essays, documents, including a photo archive, replicas and models of all known gliders and aircraft of Lilienthal, and a large collection of hang gliders and models of aircraft. Moreover, it shows the history of brothers Otto and Gustav Lilienthal, very prolific inventors of steam engines, toys, as well as initiators of numerous social and cultural projects. Otto Lilienthal was the namesake of defunct Tegel Airport in Berlin.    
Plan of Tegel Airport (TXL)
  • 23 Tegel International Airport (Flughafen Berlin-Tegel "Otto Lilienthal"), Berlin/Reinickendorf and Spandau. Tegel was the airport for the French sector and later the dominant airport of West Berlin during the Cold War. It was planned as a double hexagon, though only one hexagon was ever built (Terminal A) plus two non-hexagonal terminals (Terminals C and D). It ceased operations in 8 November 2020. Due to legal and safety reasons, Tegel was held operational for air traffic for another six months, without handling any scheduled services, before being decomissioned as an aviation facility on 3 May 2021. The minor military area on the northern side of Tegel will still be used for governmental helicopter flights until 2029; the main terminal will be kept as workspace by a university of applied sciences.    
  • 24 Tempelhof Airport, Berlin/Tempelhof and Neukölln (Take  U6  to "Platz der Luftbrücke", "Paradestraße" or "Tempelhof" to enter the park.). Sunrise to sunset. The "mother of all airports", according to Sir Norman Foster, is a huge relic of the pre-war era. First flights on what was then a parade ground were already undertaken in the first decade of the 20th century, before it became a full-on airport in the 1920s with such dignitaries as president Friedrich Ebert among the first passengers. Tempelhof was one of the first airports to feature a major terminal building (at the time the biggest building in the world before being surpassed by the Pentagon), the first to be linked to the urban rail network of its city (the Berlin U-Bahn) and was a major hotspot of the cold war, including a flight operated by Polish LOT intended for (East-) Berlin-Schönefeld being hijacked and abducted there to escape from the East to the West. The iconic terminal building (built during the Nazi era) was the hot spot of the Berlin airlift (Berliner Luftbrücke) in 1948-49. In 1951 a monument was added to its entrance square - then renamed "Airlift Square" - to commemorate the airlifts over the Berlin Blockade. The airport was featured in movies like Billy Wilder's One Two Three. Tempelhof closed as an airport on October 30, 2008. Nowadays, the airfield is a spacious park with many visitors in summer and fall. The terminal building is still fascinating - the halls and neighbouring buildings, intended to become the gateway to Europe, are still known among the largest built entities worldwide. The terminal building is used as a venue of fashion weeks or fairs. Tempelhof, in the 21st century, was a hot-button political issue: first it was the subject of a failed ballot measure to keep it open as an airport. A few years later, a ballot measure to prevent new construction on its outskirts was successful, thus preserving the urban open space at the cost of an exacerbated housing shortage. The park is free; guided tour in the building €15.    
  • 25 Cargolifter Hall (Tropical Islands) (go south from Berlin-Schönefeld for around 50 km (31 mi) on the A 13 (Berlin-Dresden) Autobahn; there is long distance bus service and a free shuttle bus from the Brand train station, too). This is one of the remnants of one of the most curious chapters of semi-rigid airship history. During the 1990s and early 2000s it seemed as if rigid airships were making a comeback for cargo. Zeppelin actually started building airships again (though none with a full interior skeleton) but all eyes were on a startup that promised to do great things with a new cargo airship and collected investor money to make that dream a reality. However, after building a scale model and a gigantic airship hall in the nowhere of rural Brandenburg, the company had to acknowledge that they had vastly underestimated the costs of their endeavor and as no more money was forthcoming, the company shut down in 2002. But all was not lost, as an investor bought up the airship hall; not to store airships, mind you - there's surprisingly little demand for that - they built one of the biggest indoor swimming pool / landscape attractions. After that venture went through some financial trouble it seems to have stabilized for now and while it does not really promote its airship-related history, the hall is nonetheless impressive and visitors can get a glimpse of the vast scale of the airship that never was.    
  • 26 Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport. Airbus, as a European company with various European states being stakeholders, produces their aircraft all throughout Europe, but Finkenwerder is where customers get their new planes. The airport is also used for flights by the Airbus company, and you can get a guided tour.    
  • 27 Deutsches Museum Flugwerft Schleißheim   is the aviation branch of Deutsches Museum, in Oberschleißheim on the north edge of Munich. The enormous main museum of science and technology is downtown in Isarvorstadt, with a transport branch in Schwanthalerhöhe at the west edge of that district.

India edit

  • 28 Indian Air Force Museum (adjacent to the Palam Air Force Station in Delhi). The display gallery contains historic photographs, memorabilia, uniforms and personal weapons of the Indian Air Force, from its inception in 1932. This gallery leads to a hangar exhibiting small aircraft and Air Force assets like anti-aircraft guns, vehicles and ordnance. Larger aircraft are exhibited outside the hangar, along with several war trophies, radar equipment and captured enemy vehicles.    
  • 29 Naval Aviation Museum (Vasco da Gama, adjacent to the Dabolim airport). Tu-Su 10AM–5PM. This museum contains exhibits that showcase the evolution of the Indian Naval Air Arm over decades. It's divided into two main parts, an outdoor exhibit and a two-storeyed indoor gallery. This is a great place to see vintage aircraft like the Sealands, Doves, Alizes, Seahawks, Vampires, a Super Constellation and Hughes helicopters, along with the relatively newer Sea Harriers. It claims to be the only one of its kind in Asia. Admission is free.

Italy edit

A seaplane at the Italian Air Force museum
  • 30 Italian Air Force Museum (Museo Storico Aeronautica Militare), Vigna Di Valle (on the southernmost point of Lake Bracciano, between Bracciano and Anguillara), +39 0699887509, . Tu-Su 09:30-16:30 in winter and 09:30-17:30 in summer. A superb collection of planes housed in the hangars of Italy's first seaplane base. Exhibits range from the pioneers of flight and World War I fighters up to Italian military planes of the present day. This is one of the largest collections of its type in the world, really well displayed. Free.
  • 31 Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology (Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia), S.Vittore Street (Milan/West, reachable by bus or subway, line MM2 Sant'Ambrogio Station). Hosted in a former monastery, San Vittore al Corpo. The Air Transport section exhibits several airplanes, including a Farman 1909 replica and an original Macchi MC 205 V used during World War II. There are also modern military aircraft, like an Italian Fiat G.91, a North American F-86K and a Republic F-84F Thunderstreak.
  • 32 Gianni Caproni Aeronautical Museum (Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni), Via Lidorno, 3 (Trento, adjacent to the airport), +39 461-944 888. Italy's oldest aviation museum, and the country's oldest corporate museum, established in 1927. Just outside the museum and airport, a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter is pointed to the sky, and stands as a gate guardian.

Japan edit

  • 33 Museum of Aeronautical Science (航空科学博物館 kōkū kagaku hakubutsukan) (Narita, about 15min by bus from Narita Airport (JR/Keisei Station).), +81 479 78-0557. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM., Closed year end and new years holidays. The Museum of Aeronautical Science displays relevant artifacts to the aviation history of Japan, including aircraft. Also of note is the observation deck on the fifth floor, with views over Narita Airport. From here you can watch aircraft landing and departing, log numbers, and take photographs.    
  • 34 Tokorozawa Aviation Museum (所沢航空発祥記念館), 1-13 Namiki (Tokorozawa), +81 4-2996-2225, fax: +81 4-2996-2531. 9:30AM-5PM. Japan's first airfield, which started operations in 1911 with a flight by Yoshitoshi Tokugawa. The original single runway is still visible and has been incorporated into the larger multifunction Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park, adjacent to the museum. It contains aircraft and other displays (many of which interactive), and an IMAX theatre.    

Latvia edit

New Zealand edit

  • 36 Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, 79 Aerodrome Rd, Blenheim (New Zealand) (beside Omaka Aerodrome (not Blenheim Airport) 5 km from town, route sign-posted off SH6), +64 3 579 1305, . Daily 10AM-5PM (last entry 4PM) except 25–26 Dec. Collection of World War I planes lovingly restored and captured in realistic settings. Part of the attraction is the association of Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) and Weta Workshop with the display. His team has turned what could be just a collection of planes into a drama enjoyed by even those with little interest in aviation or military history. Worth it. Has a cafe. Adult $25, child (5–14) $10, concessions available.

Poland edit

  • 37 Polish Aviation Museum (Muzeum Lotnictwa), al. Jana Pawła II 39 (Czyżyny district, Kraków/East), +48 12 640 99 60. Tu-Su 09:00 - 17:00. A museum consisting of a new pavilion (good contemporary architecture) and few hangars filled with over two hundred historic gliders, aircraft, helicopters and more. Among them is a collection of 22 extremely rare antique planes that once belonged to Hermann Göring. The museum stands on the grounds of the Rakowice-Czyżyny airfield, one of the oldest military airfields in Europe. Tuesdays free.

Polynesia edit

  • 38 Earhart Light (Howland Island). This is a day beacon, an unlit navigational landmark, named in honour of Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic. In 1937, she set out eastwards from Oakland, California with an intention to become the first female pilot to complete a circumnavigational flight of the globe. She was to land at Howland Island for resupplying before proceeding to Honolulu, Hawaii, her final planned stop en route to Oakland. But that never happened — she was close enough that the personnel stationed on the island could receive her radio transmission but she apparently wasn't able to pick up the response and her plane couldn't be visually observed from the island — and she was declared dead about two years later. The building stands understandably dilapidated on this remote, uninhabited Pacific island.    

Russia edit

The "Sukhoi Alley" at the Central Air Force Museum
  • 39 Museum of the Great Patriotic War (Центральный музей Великой Отечественной войны), Ploschad Pobedy (Площадь Победы), 3 (Moscow/Outskirts, M: Park Pobedy). Tu-Su 10:00-19:00, Th 10:00-20:00. Impressive museum, features an external section with displays of vintage Soviet aircraft flown in World War II. - Adults RUB200, Seniors, students RUB100.    
  • 40 Memorial Museum of Astronautics (Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics or Memorial Museum of Space Exploration,), Prospekt Mira (просп. Мира), 111 (Moscow/Outskirts, M:VDNkH (ВДНХ) or Monorail), +7 (495) 683-7968, . Tu-Su 11:00-19:00. A museum in Moscow, dedicated to space exploration.- The museum contains a wide variety of space-related exhibits and models which explore the history of flight; astronomy; space exploration; space technology; and space in the arts. The museum's collection holds approximately 85,000 different items.    
  • 41 Central Air Force Museum (Центральный музей Военно-воздушных сил РФ) (Monino, East Moscow Oblast, about 40 km east of Moscow. Take a local train from the Yaroslavl Station in Moscow.). W-F 09:30-13:30, 14:15-17:00, Sa Su 09:00-14:00. 173 Russian and Soviet military planes and 127 engines, including rarities and prototypes, are on display in the Central Air Force museum. In addition you can see uniforms, weapons and other air force equipment. Descriptions of exhibits are for the most part in Russian only, with some English translations available. The museum is on a military base, so there's identity check on entry (foreigners no longer need a special permit). Check if the museum is open before visiting, it was planned to close for an unspecified time in the summer 2016 but it has still received reviews in September 2016.    

Singapore edit

  • 42 Kallang Airport, 9 Kallang Airport Way. Singapore's first purpose-built civil aviation airport, opened in 1937 and regarded as one of the finest in the British Empire at the time of its opening. It was a major stop on the "Kangaroo Route" between London and Sydney for both Qantas and BOAC. Malayan Airways, the precursor of today's award-winning Singapore Airlines, was founded here in 1947. It was closed in 1955 after the completion of a new airport at Paya Lebar, though the Art Deco terminal building still stands, and the former runway survives in part as a public road known as Old Airport Road. British Airways and Qantas continue to operate their London-Sydney flights with a stop in Singapore, albeit using the much bigger and more modern Changi Airport. free.    

South Korea edit

  • 43 National Aviation Museum of Korea (국립항공박물관), Haneul-gil 177 (Gonghang-dong 1373-5). Gangseo-gu (Ride a shuttle bus at the Gimpo Airport Domestic Terminal.). Tu-Su 10AM-6PM. Closed on Mondays, Lunar New Year, and Chuseok.. Opened in 2020, this museum shows the history of general and Korean aviation, current and future of the aviation industry. It houses not only retired airplanes from historic F-51, F-86, but also Korean-built T-50 and KC-100. There are many exhibits about civilian aviation industry as well. Free.

Sweden edit

Ukraine edit

  • 46 Ukrainian State Aviation Museum (Державний музей авіації України (Жуляни)), Medovaya str., 1 (Kyiv, inside the old Zhulyany Airport), +380 44 241-2583, +380 44 461-6485, +380 44 451-8314, . Many impressive Soviet civil and military aircraft on display, including an An-2, Tu-104, Il-62, Il-76, an Il-86 and constantly improving. The museum is opposite to the airport terminal, which is an industrial zone. To get there, you can either take Trolleybus #9 from the main train station - Kyiv Passazhyrskyi (South exit)/Vokzalna metro stop or #22 from Shuliavska (Шулявська) metro station, both until Sevastopolska Square. From there, take the minibus 220 that will take you straight to the museum (last stop). Walking in the surrounding area after dark is not advisable as the area is poorly lit and stray dogs are present. 50 грн.

United Kingdom edit

  • 47 Royal Air Force Museum London (former RAF Hendon airfield), Grahame Park Way, London NW9 5LL, +44 20 8205-2266. A nationally important collection of military aircraft, including a few that served with the RAF's foes. Free (but parking charges apply).    
  • 48 Imperial War Museum Duxford (RAF Duxford) (near Cambridge). This World War II airfield, the main filming location for the famous Battle of Britain movie with Michael Caine, nowadays houses the Imperial War Museum's aircraft collection, and is the largest aviation museum in Europe, featuring a fleet of lovingly mantained Spitfires and Tiger Moths that fly almost daily. As well as military aircraft, it houses a large collection of non-military aircraft including a Concorde. There is also a land warfare museum attached that has many examples of armoured vehicles from the First World War onwards. A proper visit needs a full day. Bus Citi 7 takes about an hour to get there from the city centre or the bus station. Make sure that you board the Citi 7 bus that says Duxford as the Citi 7 bus also goes to two other places. Also note the time of the last bus to leave the museum as later buses go to the village of Duxford but not out to the museum. Flight shows are sometimes held; these days will be very busy.    
  • 49 Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Museum (FAST), Trenchard House, 85 Farnborough Road, GU14 6TF (Farnborough, Hampshire), +44 1252 375050. Sa Su bank holiday M 10AM-4PM. The birthplace of British aviation, Farnborough was used for research and development of balloon technology as early as the 1880s. After the first powered flight in Britain in 1908, the town became heavily involved in the aerospace industry, and saw many landmark moments throughout the 20th century, including one of the claimants for first jet aircraft, and the development of Anglo-French supersonic airliner Concorde. The FAST Museum charts this history, and you can also visit other sites and monuments connected to the industry around town. Free.    
  • The Shuttleworth Collection (near Biggleswade). Collection of vintage aircraft.
  • 50 National Museum of Flight Scotland, East Fortune Airfield EH39 5LF (off A1 near Haddington east of Edinburgh). Apr-Oct daily 10:00-17:00, Nov-Mar Sa Su 10:00-16:00. 4 hangars of aircraft, including Concorde G-BOAA. Adult £12.

United States edit

Main article: Aviation history in the United States

The United States has many sites and museums where a traveller can learn about aviation history. See Wikivoyage's Aviation history in the United States article for aviation history in the United States.

Scale-model collections edit

Ever since there has been aviation, there have been skilled model-makers creating scale representations, with many flying models engineered to the same exacting precision of their full-scale counterparts. Reportedly, 'model' flying machines -such as kites in China- got airborne centuries before manned flight first took place. Whilst a number of the museums mentioned above may have aviation models on show, those noted in this section are specifically scale model collections.

Do edit

The museums listed above may also offer activities like flight simulators, or on special occasions, tour flights.

Events edit

Here are some notable air shows around the world, but there are many more. As there are many in the United States where there are often several taking place around the country each summer weekend, see Aviation history in the United States for a list in the United States.

  • 1 Abbotsford International Air Show, Abbotsford International Airport (Trans-Canada Highway 1 to exit 87 (Clearbrook), follow signs for airshow to King Road.). Held the second weekend in August, it attracts visitors from all over the world. Flight demonstrations primarily by Canadian and US craft. Static displays of aircraft, Canadian Forces units, and local police and RCMP detachments.
  • 2 Aero India, Bangalore. Held in the second week of February every alternate year (the next one is in 2021), this is Asia's premier air show. Spanning 5 days but open to the public only on the last 3 days (F-Su), the show at Yelahanka Air Force Base in the northern part of Bangalore comprises a defence exhibition and air show. Fighter jets from around the world are on flying and on static display. Normally, there are two air shows every day - one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Tickets can be purchased online or at select outlets - scan the newspapers for more information. (Purchasing a ticket at outlets requires you to show a photo identification and tickets are non-transferable.)
  • 3 Africa Aerospace and Defence Expo, Air Force Base Waterkloof, Pretoria. A combined airshow and trade exhibition, also open to the public, taking place biannually in September. There are planes on display, aerobatics and parachuting shows and hands-on activities for kids.
  • 4 Australian International Airshow (Avalon Airshow), Avalon Airport. Described by the organizers as the biggest airshow in the Southern Hemisphere (and the 2017 show had more than 200,000 visitors), it takes place biannually in odd years. Military aircraft from different countries' airforces as far as from the UK and USA are often on display and performing. Manufacturers display new military planes and helicopters, but also civilian planes.    
  • 5 China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition (中国国际航空航天博览会) (near the Zhuhai Airport), +86 756 3375602, fax: +86 756 3376415, . Held every two years, it's the biggest airshow in China, attracting thousands of people and companies around the world including well-known Boeing, Airbus and Ilyushin. Chinese-made military aircraft, which can be rare to spot, may also show up. This show has already become the top card of Zhuhai.
  • 6 Eastbourne Airbourne, Eastbourne Seafront, +44 1323 415 415 (phone number of the Eastbourne tourism agency). This is an annual airshow that takes place over the sea. Every summer, the Red Arrows, helicopters, parachutists, and other fast jets come and fly for four days. There are other ground attractions too, including live music, with the local paper claiming that 12,000 people watched Scouting for Girls perform in 2015. The main attractions are at the Western Lawns near the Wishtower, although you can get some pretty good views from the foot of the South Downs. It's free, although the organisers appreciate donations as it is quite expensive to run.
  • 7 Farnborough International Airshow, Farnborough, United Kingdom. 20-26 July 2020. Held in Farnborough Airport for one week in July every two years. Public days are the last weekend only, although there are many locations around town to watch the displays all week. Local pub beer gardens, such as The Swan and The Prince Alexander are good places to try. On-site, exhibits cover civilian & military aircraft both static and as an aerial display. The show's stunning highlight is the RAF display team the "Red Arrows". You can also visit town during the so-called "practice week", which normally lasts a week to ten days before the show opens, although flying display times are unpredictable and often repetitive.    
  • 8 ILA Berlin Air Show, Berlin ExpoCenter Airport, Messestrasse 1, 12529 Schönefeld (18 km southeast of Berlin). The Berlin Air Show held in mid-May demonstrates the capabilities and achievements of all areas of the global aerospace industry.
  • 9 MAKS (Moscow Air Show), Ramenskoye Airport (40 km southeast of central Moscow). International Air Show held near Moscow. The first show, Mosaeroshow-92, was held in 1992. Since 1993, it was renamed "MAKS" and is held in odd years.
  • 10 Paris Air Show, Le Bourget Airport (Paris). The world's calendar-oldest air show. It's held in odd-numbered years. The Paris event starts with four professional days closed to the general public, and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday the public, including children, are allowed in.
  • 11 Royal International Air Tattoo, RAF Fairford. The world's largest military airshow. It's held the third weekend in July every year, and usually sees about 150,000 visitors. Military aircraft from all over the world are on display.    
  • 12 Warbirds Over Wanaka, Wanaka. An air show held every second Easter long weekend. The next show is in 2022. See over 50 aircraft from the biplanes of World War I, the stars of World War II, the Korea fighters and the jets of Vietnam. Also military vehicles and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Sleep edit

See Aviation history in the United States for destinations in the United States.

  • 1 Jumbostay (Arlanda airport, north of Stockholm, Sweden). Jumbovägen 4 near Arlanda Airport, is a bit of a novelty and near the airport. A decommissioned Boeing 747 Jumbo jet converted into a backpackers' hostel. Everything inside is new and clean, and linen comes included on made beds. Flat screen TV's in each room are a luxury for hostels, and if you really want to splash out, there is the cockpit suite. On the downside, not much of an atmosphere once you get over the novelty of staying in a jet.
  • Costa Verde, Puntarenas Province, Quepos, Costa Rica, +506 2777 0584. Set on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this is a laid-back hotel with converted planes.

See also edit

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