Of course, when you travel you have a chance to gawk at airplanes and nobody enjoys doing so more than aviation enthusiasts. But you can enhance your plane watching experience. If you plan a trip to cities like Atlanta, Washington DC, Seattle, Tucson or La La Land we recommend visiting these incredible museums and tours devoted to aviation.
The Delta Flight Museum at ATL
Opened in 2014 the Delta Flight Museum is located at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Its highlights include Douglas DC-3 that was used by Delta, and a rare Boeing 767, that was purchased by the airline in 1982.
Nicknamed Ship 41 the Douglas DC-3 is a remarkable specimen of some of the greatest planes in the world. It used to carry cargo in Puerto Rico but after Delta bought it the plane was restored to look exactly as it was in the 1940s. After restoration the aircraft flew 600 hours and then found a new home at the museum. Once a month, the museum visitors are allowed to take a guided tour of the plane’s cabin and flight deck.
Another museum’s gem is The Spirit of Delta, a Boeing 767 stored in the hangar next to the DC-3. You won’t believe it but the airline’s current and ex employees bought the aircraft in 1982 as a thank you gift to Delta. It cost just $30 million! In 2006 the plane was retired and placed in the museum. Now the museum guest can climb aboard to explore the aircraft and learn more about people who were generous enough to reward the airline for their secure workplace in the tough early-1980s economy.
If you have a keen interest in contemporary aircraft make sure you tour the Boeing 747 that has recently got retired. Those who often fly Delta will immediately recognize the comfortable business class seats the plane features. Visitors can get to the main cabin and the flight deck, as well as walk out onto the wings. The most daring guests can rent a full-motion Boeing 737 simulator constructed by Canada’s CAE to feel what it is like to be a pilot.
The Boeing Production Facility Tour in Everett
Seattle is home to Boeing Commercial Aircraft, the corporation that designs and manufactures Boeing aircraft. Taking the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour in Everett is a must for any aviation enthusiast. During the tour that lasts an hour and an half you will see different Boeing aircraft coming down the production line. Visitors can’t take photos and video during the guided tour, but they will be able to see the new planes being produced. The assembly lines deliver aircraft 24 hours a day, with employees working in three shifts. You are sure to be impressed by the scope and size of the production facility. In fact, it is one of the largest production buildings occupying 98 acres.
In the Future of Flight building you can see the pieces of the 787 Dreamliner delivered ready for assembly. After the tour consider visiting the on-site gift shop where you can purchase exclusive aviation themed gifts.
The National Air and Space Museum and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
A real Mecca for aviation enthusiasts, the National Air and Space Museum is worth a day long visit. It is the most popular museum in the USA most of us visited as kids. But only the adult can fully appreciate historic and contemporary aircraft displayed there.
The museum will let you trace the history of aviation from the very beginning till the present day. Gaze in awe at the first heavier than air powered airplane - the very first flyer designed by the Wright brothers and compare it to the modern steel giants flying huge distances. The first aircraft looks like a humble wooden kite covered in canvas and its first flight was shorter than the length of a present day Boeing 747.
Among other notable historic aircraft showcased at the museum is the famous Spirit of St. Louis created by Charles Lindbergh. The artifact is hanging from the ceiling and serves as a legendary proof of the man’s desperate desire to fly. Now looking at this fragile aircraft it’s hard to believe that Charles Lindbergh flew it from New York to Paris non-stop. Just think! He flew such a large distance without any radio for more than 30 hours, unable to sleep and with just a little food and water supplies.
A part of the Smithsonian, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia houses an impressive collection of flying machines that includes the Lockheed Constellation—the Connie—produced at the request of TWA, an Air France Concorde and the Space Shuttle Discovery. Of course, it deserves a visit too.
Fly Over Victorville
Southern California Logistics Airport located in Victorville just east of LA features hundreds of planes. But the only way to view them up close is to charter a helicopter, and fly over the airport taking photos. Or consider driving around the perimeter fence, or hiking around the area for a nice view of the various present day aircraft.
The Pima Air & Space Museum
Occupying a huge territory of 80 acres the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona has aircraft exhibited both indoor and outdoor. Visit the museum to see the legendary Dreamliner and even touch it to feel the unique composite material it is made of. There you can see not only modern commercial aircraft but also a wide range of military aircraft. The highlights of the museum collection are Soviet-built MiG fighters, a vintage Air Force One, and a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.
For a close up view of military planes make sure you visit Davis-Monthan AFB located nearby. The base houses a huge collection of military planes, one of the largest on the globe.