Spread across two hangars and some open tarmac on Ford Island, in the middle of Pearl Harbor, is the Pacific Aviation Museum. This collection of World War II and newer aircraft is a must-see for any airplane buff headed to Honolulu.
From a Japanese Zero to a B-25, an F-5 to an F-104, there are a ton of cool planes to check out. The best part is you can get right up close to most of the aircraft.
Also, they let me take a bunch of pictures.
The majority of the museum is in two hangars. The first, Hangar 37, houses the ticket office, gift shop, canteen, and a collection of WWII aircraft. Specifically, and not surprising given the location, this area is set up to talk about Pearl Harbor and the subsequent battles in the Pacific, including the Battle of Midway and the Doolittle Raid.
From there, you head across the tarmac, where several planes sit, some awaiting restoration.
Hangar 79 is mostly newer aircraft. Iconic jets like the F-15 and F-14 sit next to a bunch of helicopters. In the back is a working restoration shop, with a few older craft currently undergoing restoration.
You can go inside several of the larger helicopters, and walk right up to (and under!) most of the airplanes. It's a lot cooler than just seeing them hanging from a ceiling or behind ropes, like many museums.
Into the wild blue
As an airplane buff, this was an awesome tour. There were planes here that I'd never seen in person, and you can get so close to them, it's awesome. Add in the obvious historical connection, and this is an excellent museum. The Pacific Air Museum is reached by bus, one stop after the USS Missouri (which I also toured for CNET). The buses leave from a central visitor's center which houses its own museum about the Pearl Harbor attacks, in addition to the USS Bowfin submarine, and the water shuttle to the USS Arizona Memorial.
If you can't make it to Hawaii and the museum, I took a lot of pictures for this picture tour.
Special thanks to Anne Murata and Neil Sauvage for setting up my tour. A special, special thanks to docent Jerry Barnett, who provided some wonderfully fascinating personal anecdotes, and a connection from these planes of the past and the present.
As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000 mile road trips, and more. Check out Tech Treks for all his tours and adventures.
He wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines, along with a sequel. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.