AirMuseumGuide.com would like to thank Ray Jordan, McChord Air Museum Curator, for all the help and information provided during our visit.
Museum Location and Access
McChord Air Museum, founded in 1982 by the McChord Air Museum Foundation, is located on the grounds of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord complex, approximately a 1-hour drive south of Seattle, WA. All museums visitors without a federal DoD ID card must first obtain a Visitor Pass at the McChord Field Main Gate Visitors Center. Since you will be driving your own vehicle on the base grounds a valid driver license, registration and insurance is also required. View the museum’s website for detailed base entry requirements.
McChord Air Museum
|5th St, McChord AFB, WA 98438, USA|
Historic Control Tower
McChord Air Museum consists of three separate locations: the Main Building, Heritage Hill Airpark and the Restoration Hangar. The unique attraction of the Main Building is the top section of McChord’s first free standing control tower, originally built in 1952. After deactivation in 1995, the top 36 feet of the tower were relocated and attached to the museum’s Main Building. Today, the museum’s gift shop occupies the bottom portion of the tower. Visitors can also climb to the very top to view the original tower equipment and catch a glimpse of Mt. Rainier, weather permitting.
Main Building exhibits
The museum’s Main Building displays photos, documents and other artifacts depicting McChord’s history and all the Air Force units that served here since 1938 when Tacoma Field was officially transferred to the federal government. Three years later, the airfield was renamed McChord Field in honor of Army Air Corps Col. William McChord. Colonel McChord died in a crash in 1937 while piloting a Northrop A-17 attack bomber. Other displays in the building include a C-141B Cockpit Familiarization Trainer, B-25 nose and an F-106 Delta Dart Aircrew Training Device.
Heritage Hill Airpark
All museum’s historic aircraft are displayed on the beautifully maintained Heritage Hill Airpark, not far from McChord’s main runway. Two largest planes in the collection, the Douglas C-124C Globemaster II (s/n 52-0994) and Lockheed C-141B Starlifter (s/n 65-0277), are positioned in the northern end of the park, right next to the main parking lot. They might soon be joined nearby by a recently restored Lockheed C-130E Hercules currently awaiting a move to the Hill from the Restoration Hangar.
Bolo and Dragon
All aircraft types displayed on the Heritage Hill were either stationed at McChord Field or are somehow connected with the base. The Douglas B-18A Bolo (s/n 37-505), a medium bomber based on a DC-2 commercial airliner, became the first aircraft assigned to the McChord base in 1940. It was soon joined by its refined version, a Douglas B-23 Dragon (s/n 39-0036), the first operational American bomber equipped with a tail gun. Both bombers were not very successful and were soon relegated to mostly training duties. Bolo’s and Dragon’s neighbors on the Hill include a Beech UC-45J Expeditor (s/n 52-10513) and Douglas TC-47D Skytrain (s/n 44-76502) painted in the characteristic black and white invasion stripes.
Fairchild C-82 Packet
Another cargo plane displayed in the airpark is a Fairchild C-82A Packet (s/n 48-0574). This twin-boom aircraft saw limited use due to numerous design problems but paved the way for the much more successful Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar. In popular culture, the C-82 Packet is probably best known for its appearance in the 1965 movie The Flight of the Phoenix. Today only four surviving examples of the Fairchild C-82A Packet are on display in US aviation museums.
Shooting Star and Sabre Dog
T-33 trainer jets, designed by the famous Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, were a common sight at McChord for almost 40 years. The museum’s Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star (s/n 58-2106) was the last “T-Bird” built for the USAF. Its neighbor, a North American F-86D Sabre (s/n 52-3669), represents aircraft that were stationed at McChord throughout the 1950s.
Jets in a circle
There are also five other jets displayed on the Hill, arranged in a circle. One of them, a Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II (s/n 75-0270), was the twelfth produced “Warthog”. Another, a Convair F-106A Delta Dart (s/n 56-0459), was the lead plane flown for the USAF’s World Speed Record operation named “Project Firewall”. The “circle” also includes a Convair F-102A Delta Dagger (s/n 56-1515), McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle (s/n 76-0048) and McDonnell CF-101F Voodoo (s/n 101022).
The last aircraft on the Heritage Hill is a beautifully restored Canadian Vickers OA-10A Canso (s/n 43-43847). It is a Canadian-built version of the Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat and is currently painted to represent another search and rescue OA-10A flying boat (s/n 44-34033) which was stationed at McChord in the late 1940s.
The Restoration Hangar is available for tours by appointment only. It currently houses a Lockheed C-130E Hercules in a brand-new Southeast Asia camouflage. McChord Air Museum is securing funds to move the plane to the Heritage Hill. Museum volunteers are also restoring two helicopters: a Kaman HH-43B Huskie and Sikorsky UH-19G Chickasaw.
Defending North America
On our way out we also stopped by the Western Air Defense Sector HQ building to view three more planes on pedestals. The General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcon (s/n 82-0929) displayed there was one of the jets scrambled from Langley AFB, Virginia in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. It is accompanied by a McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II (s/n 63-7584) and McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle (s/n 76-116) dedicated to Canadian and US forces defending North America.