National Museum of the United States Air Force


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, six miles (9.7 km) northeast of Dayton, Ohio.[3] The NMUSAF is the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world, with more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display.[1] The museum draws about a million visitors each year, making it one of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Ohio.[4]

National Museum of the United States Air Force
Former name
  • Army Aeronautical Museum
  • Air Force Technical Museum
  • United States Air Force Museum
Established1923 (1923)
LocationWright-Patterson Air Force Base,
Dayton, Ohio
Coordinates39°46′53″N 84°06′38″W / 39.78139°N 84.11056°W / 39.78139; -84.11056
TypeMilitary aviation museum
VisitorsAbout 1 million[1]
DirectorDavid Tillotson
CuratorVacant, Deputy Director/Senior Curator[2]
Public transit accessGreater Dayton RTA Route 11
Aerial view of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Boeing B-17F Memphis Belle on display in the WWII Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
An overhead gallery view of the fourth building aircraft at the National Museum of the United States Air Force including the Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000 used as Air Force One by Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.
A spaceship on display
Apollo 15 Command Module Endeavour which carried David Scott, James Irwin, and Alfred Worden to the Moon in 1971 on NASA's fourth crewed lunar landing mission
An overhead view of the fourth building aircraft at the National Museum of the United States Air Force including the North American XB-70 Valkyrie
The KH-9 Hexagon photographic reconnaissance satellite on display at the National Museum of the USAF



The museum dates 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 World War II. In 1948, the collection remained private as the Air Force Technical Museum.[5] 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.

Through the 1960s, Eugene Kettering, son of Charles F. Kettering, led the project to build a permanent structure to house the collections and became the first chairman of the board of the Air Force Museum Foundation. When he died in 1969, his widow Virginia took over the project. Her "determination, logic and meticulous attention" kept it on track,[6] and the current facility opened in 1971.[7] Not including its annex on Wright Field proper, the museum has more than tripled in square footage since 1971, with the addition of a second hangar in 1988, a third in 2003, and a fourth in 2016.[8][9]

In October 2004, the name changed from United States Air Force Museum to National Museum of the United States Air Force.[10]

The museum is a central component of the National Aviation Heritage Area.[11]

On 28 February 2024, a tornado touched down in the Riverside area in Montgomery County, Ohio.[12] The museum was struck by the tornado causing damage. The base commander, Col. Travis Pond, said that "the damage was isolated to the southern side of Area B. Damaged buildings included the Museum’s Restoration Hangar 4, Gate 22B, and other nearby facilities."[13]

Exhibits and collections


The museum's collection contains many rare aircraft of historical or technological importance, and various memorabilia and artifacts from the history and development of aviation. Among them is the Apollo 15 Command Module Endeavour which orbited the Moon 74 times in 1971, one of four surviving Convair B-36 Peacemakers, the only surviving North American XB-70 Valkyrie and Bockscar—the Boeing B-29 Superfortress that dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb on Nagasaki during the last days of World War II.

In 2010, the museum launched its 360-degree Virtual Tour, allowing most aircraft and exhibits to be viewed online.

In 2016, the museum opened its 224,000-square-foot (20,800 m2) fourth building, bringing its size to 1,120,000 square feet (104,000 m2).[14] The addition was privately financed by the Air Force Museum Foundation at a cost of $40.8 million (equivalent to $50.8 million in 2023[15]). The building houses more than 70 aircraft, missiles, and space vehicles in four new galleries - Presidential, Research and Development, Space and Global Reach, along with three science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Learning Nodes.

In 2018, the Boeing B-17F Memphis Belle was placed on permanent public display in the World War II Gallery.[16] The aircraft and its crew became iconic symbols of the heavy bomber crews and support personnel who helped defeat Nazi Germany.

Presidential aircraft


The museum has several Presidential aircraft, including those used by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The centerpiece of the presidential aircraft collection is SAM 26000, a modified Boeing 707 known as a VC-137C, used regularly by presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon. This aircraft took President and Mrs. Kennedy to Dallas on 22 November 1963—the day of the President's assassination. Vice President Johnson was sworn in as president aboard it shortly after the assassination, and the aircraft then carried Kennedy's body back to Washington, D.C.[17] It became the backup presidential aircraft after Nixon's first term. It was temporarily removed from display on 5 December 2009, repainted and returned to display on President's Day in 2010.[18]

All presidential aircraft are now displayed in the Presidential Gallery, in the new fourth building.[19]

Pioneers of flight


A large section of the museum is dedicated to pioneers of flight, especially the Wright Brothers, who conducted some of their experiments at nearby Huffman Prairie. A replica of the Wrights' 1909 Military Flyer is on display, as well as other Wright brothers artifacts. The building also hosts the National Aviation Hall of Fame, which includes several educational exhibits.

Uniforms and clothing

"Enlisted Heritage Uniforms" exhibit on display at National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Major General Billy Mitchell's uniform displayed on far left at National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

The museum has many pieces of U.S. Army Air Forces and U.S. Air Force clothing and uniforms. At any time, more than 50 World War II-vintage A-2 leather flying jackets are on display, many of which belonged to famous figures in Air Force history. Others are painted to depict the airplanes and missions flown by their former owners. The displays include the jacket worn by Brigadier General James Stewart, P-38 ace Major Richard I. Bong's sheepskin B-3 jacket and boots, an A-2 jacket worn by one of the few USAAF pilots to leave the ground during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and President Ronald Reagan's USAAF peacoat.

Part of the "Warrior Airmen" exhibit on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

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 Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber (test aircraft), the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth ground attack aircraft and others. A fourth hangar was completed in 2016, to house the museum's space collection, presidential planes, and an enlarged educational outreach area. Previously these collections were housed in an annex facility on Area B of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (the former Wright Field). Because the annex was physically located on the base itself, museum guests were required to go through additional security checks before taking museum buses to the hangar.

The museum owns other USAF aircraft, including former U.S. Army Air Service, USAAC or USAAF aircraft, that are on loan to other aerospace museums in the United States and overseas, as well as those on permanent static display at various U.S. Air Force installations and tenant activities worldwide, and at Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard installations across the United States. Most of these loaned aircraft duplicate aircraft exhibited by the museum. These other aircraft remain the property of the Department of the Air Force and are typically identified at these locations as being "On Loan from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force." The museum's staff has very high standards for the restoration and quality of care 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 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Memphis Belle.

For an additional fee, guests can view aviation- and space-oriented films in a large format theater interspersed primarily with other documentaries. In 2013, the Air Force Museum Theater was upgraded from IMAX to digital 3D. The renovation included a new stage, theater seats, and a new theater screen to support a broader range of programming—including educational presentations, live broadcasts and expanded documentary choices. It also included a 7.1 surround-sound system, audio devices for the hearing or visually impaired, and personal closed captioning systems.[20]

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force completed a multi-phase, long-term expansion plan. The Air Force Museum Foundation recently supported a major capital construction program that expanded the museum to the current 1 million square feet of exhibit space with the addition of the fourth building that now houses the Space Gallery, Presidential Aircraft Gallery and Global Reach Gallery. This new fourth building opened to the public on 8 June 2016.[21][22][23][24] With the addition of new space, more than 70 aircraft that were in storage have been put back on display, such as the XB-70 Valkyrie.[25][26][27] The Presidential Aircraft collection is also back on site, having been moved to an outside location for some time.[28]

The new building's construction was entirely funded via private donations from several different sources.[29]



The museum is divided into galleries that cover broad historic trends in military aviation. These are further broken down into exhibits that detail specific historical periods and display aircraft in historical context.

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.[30]

Other Air Force museums


See also

Related lists




  1. ^ a b "History of the National Museum of the United States Air Force". National Museum of the United States Air Force. June 2007. Archived from the original on 8 April 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2008.
  2. ^ "Krista Strider". National Museum of the US Air Force. 28 April 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Visitor info". Archived from the original on 26 November 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  4. ^ "Airfoce Museum Attendance". Archived from the original on 8 April 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  5. ^ US Air Force Museum Foundation (1972). US Air Force Museum.
  6. ^ McIntire, Bill (29 March 2012). "Virginia Kettering". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  7. ^ Hartzer, Ronald B.; Walker, Lois E.; Gatewood, Rebecca; Grandine, Katherine; Kur, Kathryn M. Leading the Way: The History of Air Force Civil Engineers, 1907–2012 (PDF). pp. 240–241. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  8. ^ Air Force Museum Foundation
  9. ^ Expanding the Legacy. Air Force Museum Foundation. p. 19. Retrieved 31 December 2015 – via Issuu.
  10. ^ "History of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force". United States Air Force. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Home of the Wright Brothers". National Aviation Heritage Area. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  12. ^, daryl herzmann. "IEM :: PNS from NWS ILN". Retrieved 29 February 2024.
  13. ^ Roza, David (28 February 2024). "Tornado Damages Wright-Patt and National U.S. Air Force Museum". Air & Space Forces Magazine. Retrieved 29 February 2024.
  14. ^ "National Museum of the United States Air Force Expansion".
  15. ^ Johnston, Louis; Williamson, Samuel H. (2023). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 30 November 2023. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the MeasuringWorth series.
  16. ^ Bardua, Rob (19 March 2018). "B-17F Memphis Belle moves to WWII Gallery as exhibit opening nears" (Press release). National Museum of the US Air Force. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  17. ^ Keen, Judy (20 November 2009). "JFK Relics Stir Strong Emotions". USA Today. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
  18. ^ "Air Force One temporarily off display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force" (Press release). National Museum of the US Air Force. 22 September 2009. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012.
  19. ^ Bardua, Rob (7 June 2016). "National Museum of the U.S. Air Force fourth building now open" (Press release). National Museum of the US Air Force. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  20. ^ "Theatre - Air Force Museum Foundation". Archived from the original on 20 July 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  21. ^ USAF Museum opens 4th building
  22. ^ "New Air Force museum hangar to open June 8".
  23. ^ "Air Force Museum to open fourth building". 26 May 2016.
  24. ^ "Upcoming". National Museum of the US Air Force.
  25. ^ "XB-70 Valkyrie moved into museum". National Museum of the United States Air Force. 27 October 2015.
  26. ^ "Exotic XB-70 towed to new hangar draws a crowd".
  27. ^ Nagy, Attila (3 November 2015). "The New Home of the Most Exotic Bomber Ever Built Is Aerospace Heaven".
  28. ^ "Presidential Gallery". National Museum of the US Air Force.
  29. ^ "Air Force Museum Foundation provides funding for museum" (Press release). National Museum of the United States Air Force.
  30. ^ Air Force Museum Foundation. Retrieved 4 February 2010.


  • Schlitz, William P. (March 1969). "The Air Force Museum: Caretaker of a Legend". Air Force and Space Digest. Vol. 37, no. 11. pp. 102, 106–109. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
External image
  Aerial photo of the museum in its previous location
  • Official website
  • Air Force Museum Foundation official website
  • SR-71 Online – National Museum of The United States Air Force – A guide to the museum and its displays.
  • US Air Force Museum Photos – Photos of exhibits in the National Museum of the USAF in Dayton, OH
  • Photo website with 360-degree VR panoramas and HDR images
  • List of engines at the museum
  • Air Force Materiel Command Mission Directive 417