Located on Ford Island, the Pacific Aviation Museum houses some of the most famous aircraft from WWII, Korea, the Cold War, and more. Check out this full tour.
The Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor houses an incredible collection of WWII and newer aircraft. Split across two hangers, the first hanger is almost entirely about Pearl Harbor and the War in the Pacific. The second hanger is a mix, mostly modern aircraft and helicopters.
If you can't make it to Hawaii to experience the museum yourself, here's a photo tour of many of the great aircraft.
Also check out the article about the tour.
A restored Mitsubishi A6M Zero. This particular example was built in 1942 and abandoned on the Ballale Island.
A Curtiss P-40E Warhawk. This one is a replica, painted with the markings of Lieutenant Ken Taylor's P-40.
According to the museum, very few B-25B (the variant used in the Doolittle Raid) still exist. This one was pieced together from several damaged later variants. Apparently this was also common practice on the front lines in the war.
To save weight, there were no rear guns on the Doolittle B-25s. Broomsticks painted black were used instead.
The Douglas SBD Dauntless. There's a surprising ruggedness to this plane up close. It really looks like a mean, hulking piece of metal.
I'd always wondered what these looked like up close.
The Dauntless's tail gunner had two 0.30-cal Browning machine guns. The pilot had a pair of 0.50-cals in the nose.
A Grumman F4F Wildcat. This F4F-3 crashed in Lake Michigan in 1943. (The pilot survived.) In 1991 it was recovered, having been remarkably preserved. Four years later it flew again with its original engine. It is one of only two flight-worthy examples of this variant.
On your way to the second hanger, you pass a row of planes sitting on the tarmac. The F-104 is one of my favorite planes, and this was the first time I'd seen one this close. This 104 served in Washington, Taiwan, and as a chase plane at Edwards. It was also Major Nelson's plane.
The F-104 is a remarkably small plane. Not much bigger than an SUV, really.
Hold your arms out, and that's wider than the 104's fuselage.
These barely look like wings. They're practically flat, and are barely longer than a person.
Entering service in 1960, the F-4 is a lot bigger of an aircraft than the F-86 or F-104 it sits next to.
You need a lot of air going in to get enough thrust for Mach 2.2.
The well-used tailhook.
I'd always wondered what these looked like up close.
These sure had to deal with a lot of heat.
I admit, I didn't recognize this one, and I'm pretty good. Have a guess. It'd be easier to identify if you saw it from above or below.
The F-102 was the first all-weather supersonic jet interceptor.
Yet another detail I'd been curious about. The F-111 has variable-sweep wings. Here's where the wings meet the body. Not exactly exciting, but I hadn't seen it up close before.
The F-111 was introduced in 1964, and retired from the United States Air Force in 1998. Not a bad run. The Royal Australian Air Force, where this one served, used them until 2010.
The F-111 is a big, heavy aircraft, which needs a heavy-duty undercarriage.
Remove Before Flight indeed.
The MiG-21's air cone regulates airflow to the engine, and is movable depending on the airspeed.
No ladder here. I had to reach up to get the camera this view of the MiG-21's cockpit. In the distance is the back of a B-52 nose cone (which we'll get to later).
Any children of the '70s and '80s who didn't have a poster of one of these on their wall? This beast seems bigger than the B-25.
The F-14 was in service for 32 years. This F-14 is one of only 37 "D" variants that wasn't converted from an earlier version.
Not sure why I was so fascinated with the tailhooks. Probably because I hadn't seen them up close before.
Such a huge, but gorgeous, aircraft.
This is where the front wheel assembly of the F-14 sits when in flight. Look at all those tubes and wires.
The complexity of the F-14 is amazing.
The tiny Northrop F-5. While most fighters of this era (like the F-15 and F-14) are massive, the F-5 is positively tiny.
It almost looks a like a kit plane, but the performance was supposed to be incredible (being so small and light).
There's some joke about helicopters that they're "millions of parts flying roughly in formation." I worked at a flight school for airplane pilots, and they might have biased me a bit on this...
The massive Sikorsky CH-53 D Sea Stallion. I think you could fit the F-5 inside this thing (if you could fold the wings).
The six main rotors of the CH-53D fold back for easier storage on ships.
This D variant CH-53 can carry up to 55 soldiers.
When this is printed on every seat, you know what, I think you should follow its advice.
This is a view from the SH-3 Sea King, which I didn't actually get an exterior picture of. Oops. In the foreground is a Seahawk, which we'll get to.
Not quite as big as the Sea Stallion, the Sea King could still carry 28 soldiers.
Not much of a view from the SH-3's tiny side widow. You can see the big air intake of the CH-53 though.
The cockpit of the SH-3 Sea King. Yes, had I been able to sit down there, I would have played with all the knobs. Like you wouldn't.
Weapons control console, presumably. A lot of stuff missing. Makes you wonder what cool stuff they took out.
I admit, I'm stumped. Any idea what these are? I'll show you the outside too. This is inside the Seahawk. At first I thought they were air or fuel tanks (given their shape and the hoses). But wait till you see the outside...
So...sonar buoys launched with compressed air?
They're about 3 feet deep. If you know what these are, please post a comment below.
The core components of the AH-1 are shared with the Huey, which brings us to...
How many movies have featured this helicopter?
The rather amusing looking Sikorsky HH-34J Choctaw. I like these. They're very functional looking.
I'd always wondered how the pilots got up to the cockpit. I'd figured stairs or something. Nope. They climb up, and fold down their seat. The opening on the right has the seat up -- the square on the left opening is the seat. So basically while you're flying, you're also perched 6 feet from the deck of your own craft.
Seems like there was storage space through that hatch.
One last view of Hanger 79. They have plans to create scenes for different planes, like the other hanger.
Unless you're pretty short, there's no room to stand upright up here on the B-52's flight deck.
Even worse down here. Not much of a view either...
I have a car one of these would fit on quite nicely.
Hanger 79 also houses a full restoration shop where they bring planes back to life (or at least to museum quality). This B-17, for instance, was recovered from a swamp. The parts are arranged outside.
The various parts of a B-17 awaiting restoration.
There's a lot of history here, and well worth the trip to visit. There are actually three museums (four if you count the elaborate visitor's center). The USS Bowfin submarine is docked right next to the visitor's center. A shuttle bus takes you over to Ford Island, where you can tour, as I did, the USS Missouri. The Pacific Aviation Museum is next to this legendary tower.
And then, of course, you can head over to the USS Arizona Memorial.