The National Museum of the United States Air Force (formerly the United States Air Force Museum) is the official museum of the United States Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base 6 miles (9.7 km) northeast of Dayton, Ohio. The NMUSAF is the World's largest and oldest military aviation museum with more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display. The museum draws over 1.3 million visitors each year making it one of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Ohio. Admission to the museum is free.
The museum dates back to 1923 when the Engineering Division at Dayton's McCook Field first collected technical artifacts for preservation. In 1927 it moved to then-Wright Field in a laboratory building. In 1932 the collection was named the Army Aeronautical Museum and placed in a WPA building from 1935 until WWII. In 1948 the collection remained private as the Air Force Technical Museum. In 1954 the Air Force Museum became public and was housed in its first permanent facility, Building 89 of the former Patterson Field in Fairborn, which had been an engine overhaul hangar.
Many of its aircraft were parked outside and exposed to the weather. It remained there until 1971 when the current facility was first opened. Not including its annex on Wright Field proper, the museum has more than tripled in square footage since its inception in 1971. The museum announced a new name for the facility in October 2004. The former name "United States Air Force Museum" was changed to "National Museum of the United States Air Force". The museum is a central component of the National Aviation Heritage Area.
Exhibits and collections
The museum's collection contains many rare aircraft of historical or technological importance as well as various memorabilia and artifacts relating to the history and development of aviation. Included in the permanent collections are one of four surviving Convair B-36s, the only surviving XB-70 Valkyrie, and Bockscar—the B-29 Superfortress that dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki during the last days of World War II. The museum launched their 360-degree Virtual Tour in 2010. Visitors can now view the majority of the museum's aircraft and exhibits online.
Other exhibits and attractions
The museum completed the construction of a third hangar and hall of missiles in 2004. It now houses post-Cold War era planes such as the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber (test aircraft), the F-117 Nighthawk stealth ground attack aircraft and others. Fund raising has begun for a fourth hangar to house the museum's space collection, presidential planes and an enlarged educational outreach area, making all more accessible to the public. The museum has an IMAX theater that shows, for a fee, aviation and space oriented IMAX films interspersed primarily with other documentaries.
The museum owns other aircraft that are on loan to other aerospace museums in the United States. Most of these loaned aircraft duplicate aircraft exhibited by the museum. The museum's staff has very high standards for the quality of care/restoration of loaned assets, and has, in the past, revoked these loans when it was deemed that these other museums did not have the resources to properly care for an artifact. This happened in the case of the famous B-17, Memphis Belle.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is in the midst of a multi-phase, long-term expansion plan. The Air Force Museum Foundation is currently supporting a major capital construction program to expand the museum's current one million square feet of exhibit space with a fourth building that will house the Space Gallery, Presidential Aircraft Gallery and Global Reach Gallery. Additionally, the Air Force Museum Theater is in the process of upgrading its theatre from IMAX to digital 3D with a stage. This upgrade will allow for a broader range of programming, including educational presentations and live broadcasts, in addition to expanded documentary choices. The renovations will also include a 7.1 surround-sound system, audio devices for the hearing or visually impaired, and personal closed captioning systems.
Air Force Museum Foundation
The Air Force Museum Foundation is a private, non-profit organization that supports the mission and goals of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.