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San Diego Air & Space Museum

by | Feb 24, 2019 | California | 0 comments

Location & history

San Diego Air & Space Museum opened its doors for the first time on February 15, 1963. It was initially called San Diego Aerospace Museum and was located in the Food and Beverage Building in Balboa Park, currently known as Casa Balboa. The museum became an instant success and its collection grew quickly prompting the move to a new building nearby in 1965. Over a decade later the museum was planning to move again when a devastating fire on February 22, 1978 destroyed most of the museum’s collection of over 50 aircraft.

Address:
2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101

Hours:
10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m; closed on Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Day

Admission:
Adults (12 and over): $19.95, Youth (3-11 years): $10.95

Phone:
(619) 234-8291

Website:
sandiegoairandspace.org

Title Address Description
San Diego Air & Space Museum
627 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

Gate guardians

Today the San Diego Air & Space Museum is housed in the historic Ford Building which was constructed in 1935 for the California Pacific International Exposition. The building entrance is guarded by a Convair YF2Y-1 Sea Dart, a prototype delta-winged seaplane fighter aircraft designed to take off and land on twin retractable hydro-skis. It is accompanied by one of the nine surviving Lockheed A-12 Blackbirds, a reconnaissance aircraft built for the CIA by Lockheed’s Skunk Works division. The museum’s Blackbird was used on secretive spy missions over Southeast Asia before it was retired in 1969 and put into storage at Palmdale, California.

Convair YF2Y-1 Sea Dart

Convair YF2Y-1 Sea Dart

Entrance rotunda

The admission counter is located in the entrance rotunda, where a flying replica of the Ryan NYP-3 Spirit of St. Louis is displayed alongside Bell X-1 mock-up, Sopwith Pup, Apollo 9 Command Module, General Atomics RQ-1K Predator and other drones. The walking tour is designed to take you through history of aviation.  You start in the Early Flight gallery with a model of Montgolfier Balloon and various glider reproductions including Chanute and Wright gliders.

Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis flying replica

Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis flying replica

World War I gallery

The World War I gallery includes a Curtiss A-1 Triad replica, Fokker E.III Eindecker replica, Albatros D.Va replica, Nieuport 11 and 28, SPAD VII and a famous Fokker Dr. I Dreidecker (Triplane in German) replica. The Dreidecker became famous as the aircraft in which Manfred von Richthofen, known as the “Red Baron”, gained many of his aerial victories, and in which he was killed on 21 April 1918.

Fokker E.III Eindecker & Albatros D.Va

Fokker E.III Eindecker & Albatros D.Va

Golden Age of Flight

Next is the Golden Age of Flight gallery, covering the period of barnstorming in the surplus aircraft from WWI, many technological advancements in aviation engineering, and many record setting flights. The gallery displays a Ryan M-1, Consolidated PT-1 Trusty, Ryan B-5 Brougham, Gee Bee R-1 replica and many others. The gallery also displays a red Lockheed Vega 5B reproduction used as a prop in the biographical film “Amelia” about Amelia Earhart starring Hilary Swank.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

San Diego Air & Space Museum

World War II exhibit

The World War II exhibit includes a Boeing P-26 Peashooter reproduction, North American P-51D Mustang, Messerschmitt Bf 109G-14 replica, Supermarine Spitfire Mk.XVI, Douglas SBD-4 Dauntless, Chance Vought F4U Corsair, Mitsubishi A6M7 Zero, Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat and a cockpit section of a Douglas C-47. San Diego Air & Space Museum also possesses a replica World War II-era German Horten Ho 229 which was the first jet-powered flying wing. A team of Northrop Grumman aviation engineers created it using the original plans for a National Geographic documentary. Radar testing conducted at the Northrop Grumman test range revealed that the Horten’s radar signature was 60% smaller than Messerschmitt Bf 109, the main Nazi fighter of WWII. The only surviving Horten Ho 229 airframe is displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Horten Ho 229 V3 replica

Horten Ho 229 V3 replica

Modern Jet & Space Age

We finally arrive at the Modern Jet & Space Age gallery with Douglas A-4B Skyhawk, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet “Blue Angel 1” on display together with Gemini spacecraft and Apollo Service Module mock-ups. There is also a center pavilion with a Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina, Ford 5-A-B Trimotor, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17, McDonnell Douglas F-4J/S Phantom II and a Bell AH-1E Cobra helicopter. It is available for reservation for special events.

Ford Trimotor 5-AT-B

Ford Trimotor 5-AT-B

Local history

A lot of exhibits in the museum have ties to San Diego, due to its rich aviation history. The museum’s Catalina was constructed nearby by Consolidated Aircraft. The Spirit of St. Louis was also built in San Diego by Ryan Aeronautical and North Island Naval Air Station is known as a birthplace of Naval Aviation. A visit to San Diego Air & Space Museum wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Gillespie Field in El Cajon, CA where the museum’s annex is located with many more aircraft on display.

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina

More Photos

About The Author

Igor K.

I am the founder and editor-in-chief of the AirMuseumGuide.com blog. Together with my son - hopefully a future aerospace engineer - we are trying to visit as many aviation and aerospace museums in the US as possible with the ultimate goal of visiting them all. We have been able to visit approximately 60 so far. We are hoping this site will help preserve aviation history and inspire young people to pursue a career in aerospace.

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