The Pacific Aviation Museum is located on Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor. It opened on December 7, 2006, the 65th anniversary of the Japanese bombing raid that launched the United States into war in the Pacific.
To get to the museum, visitors must board a shore-side trolley from the Arizona Memorial national park visitor's center just off Kamehameha Highway, eight miles west of Honolulu. The trolley takes them across the Ford Island Bridge and makes a stop at the USS Battleship Missouri before arriving at the site of the old air strip where the museum is situated.
The buildings that house the exhibits here are actual World War II hangars; scars from America's first aviation battlefield can still be seen on their exteriors. Tours of the museum begin in 42,000-square-foot Hangar 37, which originally served seaplanes.
Just off the museum's lobby, a 200-seat theater launches each tour with a 10-minute movie, showing historic footage of 1941's surprise attack. From the theater, visitors follow a corridor lined with photos depicting what life was like at the naval base on that fateful December day. Sound effects add to the reenactment.
The main exhibit area takes up 25,000 square feet. Its centerpiece is a diorama featuring an authentic Japanese Zero. It rests upon the deck of a Japanese aircraft carrier, the Hiryu, waiting to fly at dawn. Also on display is a light civilian plane that was shot down during the attack, plus a P-40 fighter identical to the ones that were based at Wheeler and Haleiwa Field.
One exhibit features a Japanese Zero that crash-landed on Niihau Island; plasma screen televisions relate the story of its fate before, during and after the raid. Another diorama shows aircraft from both sides of the conflict suspended in mid-air.
As its name implies, the Pacific Aviation Museum commemorates not only the battle that took place at Pearl Harbor, but also aviation history throughout the Pacific. For example, one exhibit centers on an actual B-25B Mitchell Bomber, which is identical to the plane used in April 1942 for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan.
Representing the Battle of Midway is an SBD Dauntless dive bomber. For the story of the "Cactus Air Force'' at Guadalcanal, an authentic Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat is featured. There is also a tribute to America's mobilization for war, showing how warplanes were made and pilots trained. Presented is the actual Stearman N2S-3 in which former President Bush soloed.
On the premises, visitors will also find a gift shop stocked with aviation-related items, the World War II themed Laniakea Caf‚ with a full lunch menu, and an interactive game arcade with six combat flight simulators. The latter allows guests to "fly'' a Zero or Wildcat fighter for a 15-minute dogfight in the skies above Guadalcanal; a pre-flight briefing is included, too.
Besides the exhibits, the Pacific Aviation Museum also hosts special events, such as the "The Biggest Little Air Show on Ford Island,'' with remote controlled model planes taking the air from old Luke Field. A private room can be rented for up to 120 guests during regular Museum operating hours, or 100~600 for evening activities. Outdoor functions can be catered for groups up to 10,000.
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