A tour of the Pacific Aviation Museum (pictures)

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.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
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The Pacific Aviation Museum

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.

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A restored Mitsubishi A6M Zero. This particular example was built in 1942 and abandoned on the Ballale Island.

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A Curtiss P-40E Warhawk. This one is a replica, painted with the markings of Lieutenant Ken Taylor's P-40.

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Doolittle Raiders

A B-25. It was surprising, once you're up close, how small these planes are.

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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.

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To save weight, there were no rear guns on the Doolittle B-25s. Broomsticks painted black were used instead.

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The Douglas SBD Dauntless. There's a surprising ruggedness to this plane up close. It really looks like a mean, hulking piece of metal.

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1,000 HP engine

A 9-cylinder, 1,000 HP engine from an SBD Dauntless.

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SBD Dauntless dive brakes

I'd always wondered what these looked like up close.

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Dangerous front and rear

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.

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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.

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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.

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Tiny plane

The F-104 is a remarkably small plane. Not much bigger than an SUV, really.

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Pointy too

Hold your arms out, and that's wider than the 104's fuselage.

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F-104 and tower

The F-104 and the Ford Island Control Tower.

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F-104's 'wings'

These barely look like wings. They're practically flat, and are barely longer than a person.

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A North American F-86 Sabre. This is the "L" Interceptor variant.

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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.

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The F-4's serious air intakes

You need a lot of air going in to get enough thrust for Mach 2.2.

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Running along the bottom of the F-4 you can see the tailhook.

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F-4 tailhook closeup

The well-used tailhook.

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F-4 engines

A pair of GE J79s sat in here originally.

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F-4 exhaust nozzle flaps: Exterior

I'd always wondered what these looked like up close.

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F-4 exhaust nozzle flaps: Interior

These sure had to deal with a lot of heat.

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A guess?

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.

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It's an F-102 'Delta Dagger'

The F-102 was the first all-weather supersonic jet interceptor.

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Inside Hanger 79

Entering the second hanger you're greeted by this F-111.

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Swing wings

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.

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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.

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Nice undercarriage

The F-111 is a big, heavy aircraft, which needs a heavy-duty undercarriage.

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An actual MiG-21. This one originally served in Serbia.

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Remove Before Flight indeed.

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The MiG-21's air cone regulates airflow to the engine, and is movable depending on the airspeed.

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Stretch up

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).

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The newer the fighters get, it seems the larger they get too. Here's the mean-looking F-15.

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F-14 Tomcat

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.

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Lookin' at you

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.

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Another tailhook (this time on the F-14)

Not sure why I was so fascinated with the tailhooks. Probably because I hadn't seen them up close before.

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Quite a view (F-14)

Such a huge, but gorgeous, aircraft.

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F-14 tailerons

The tailerons on the F-14 are roughly the same size as the entire wing of the F-104.

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This is where the front wheel assembly of the F-14 sits when in flight. Look at all those tubes and wires.

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More tubes

The complexity of the F-14 is amazing.

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F-5: Right

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.

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F-5 nose

It almost looks a like a kit plane, but the performance was supposed to be incredible (being so small and light).

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F-5: Left

Chuck Yeager loved the later version of this plane, the nearly identical looking F-20.

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F-5: Little engines

Two GE J85 turbojets, designed originally for missiles.

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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...

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Sea Stallion

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).

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The six main rotors of the CH-53D fold back for easier storage on ships.

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The Bus

This D variant CH-53 can carry up to 55 soldiers.

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Keep your hands and arms inside the car...

When this is printed on every seat, you know what, I think you should follow its advice.

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A view

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.

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SH-3 Interior

Not quite as big as the Sea Stallion, the Sea King could still carry 28 soldiers.

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OV Seat

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.

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SH-3 cockpit

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.

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The Navy's version of the Army's famous Blackhawk, the SH-60 Seahawk.

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SH-60 cockpit

No cupholders?

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SH-60 cabin

Weapons control console, presumably. A lot of stuff missing. Makes you wonder what cool stuff they took out.

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OK, what is this?

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...

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SH-60 holes

So...sonar buoys launched with compressed air?

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SH-60 tubes

They're about 3 feet deep. If you know what these are, please post a comment below.

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Yet another '70s and '80s icon, the AH-1 Cobra.

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Big rotor

The core components of the AH-1 are shared with the Huey, which brings us to...

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The Bell UH-1 Iroquois. The Huey.

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Huey cockpit

Well worn.

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Huey cabin

How many movies have featured this helicopter?

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The rather amusing looking Sikorsky HH-34J Choctaw. I like these. They're very functional looking.

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H-34 cockpit

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.

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H-34 cabin

Seems like there was storage space through that hatch.

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The MiG-15 is one of the most widely produced aircraft ever.

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Hanger 79

One last view of Hanger 79. They have plans to create scenes for different planes, like the other hanger.

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B-52 nose

The B-52 is an incredible aircraft. It's on track to be in continuous service for 100 years before it's retired. Just the nose of one at the PAM.

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Unless you're pretty short, there's no room to stand upright up here on the B-52's flight deck.

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Cramped in the B-52

Even worse down here. Not much of a view either...

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An actual Norden bombsight.

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You know...

I have a car one of these would fit on quite nicely.

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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.

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The various parts of a B-17 awaiting restoration.

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Ford Island Tower

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.

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