The most visited tourist attraction in the state of Ohio, the National Museum of the United States Air Force is located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Riverside, Ohio, just outside of the city of Dayton. Attracting nearly a million-and-a-half visitors each year, this museum, formerly known as the United States Air Force Museum, is the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world, boasting displays of more than 400 aircraft and missiles.
The museum was founded in 1923 at Dayton's McCook Field and was initiated by a group of engineers who began collecting technical artifacts for preservation. In 1927, it moved to what was then known as Wright Field. In 1954, it moved to Building 89 at Patterson Field in Fairborn, Ohio. It assumed its current location in 1971 and has tripled in size since that time.
The galleries at the National Museum of the United States Air Force profile U.S. and world military aviation history and many of the vehicles displayed here are one-of-a- kind. In addition to planes and aviation equipment, guests can also view a variety of other artifacts that span more than a century.
The Early Years Gallery profiles the formative days of military air power and includes Wright Brothers artifacts. The Air Power Gallery houses one of the world's top collections of World War II aircraft and tells the story of many pivotal moments in military air history throughout that war. In the Modern Flight Gallery, visitors learn about the planes used during the Korean and Vietnam Wars as well as many other aspects of air power during that time period. The Eugene W. Kettering Cold War Gallery highlights the technological advancements of that era and includes the world's only permanent display of a B-2 Stealth Bomber.
Other galleries include the Missile and Space Gallery, opened in 2004 and housed in a silo-like building. An elevated platform inside provides views of such space vessels as Titan I and II, Jupiter, and the Apollo 15 command module. The Presidential Gallery highlights the planes that have accommodated the U.S. Chief of Staff through the decades, and the Research and Development Gallery pays tribute to the air power visionaries of the 20th and 21st centuries.
In addition, the National Museum of the United States Air Force offers an outdoor airpark featuring a number of Boeing, Lockheed, and other aircraft, and also an outdoor Memorial Park, which pays tribute to Air Force-associated individuals and units who gave their lives in the fight for freedom. More than 500 memorials can be found here, including ones that honor the MIAs from the Vietnam Conflict.
In addition to planes and rockets, the museum also profiles engines and other equipment, weapons, other air force-related vehicles, and uniforms. Visitors can also tour US Air Force facilities such as the onsite WWII-era 8th Air Force Control Tower and a Nissen Hut, which served as a home or recreation area for air force personnel enlisted during World War II.
US Air Force Heritage Tours are available daily and the museum also offers specialized behind-the-scenes tours several times each month. Special events at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, including family-oriented days and aerospace camps for children. There is also an extensive caf, and a gift shop on site.
In addition, guests may enjoy a feature at the 500-seat IMAX Theater, located on the grounds of the museum. Operated by the Air Force Museum Foundation, the theater offers films on the history of aviation several times each day. Admission to the theater is separate from the cost of admission to the rest of the museum. Guests can also opt to check out the 4-minute movie at the Morphis MovieRide Theater, a simulator-type ride that puts guests in the middle of the action. There's also an additional fee for this attraction.