A Quick Guide to Virtually Touring Aviation Museums
Due to the current coronavirus pandemic many attractions and non-essentials business closed their doors to visitors. This widespread closure has affected many, if not all aviation museums throughout the country. In addition to trying to “flatten the curve” by minimizing social contact and slowing the spread of COVID-19, closing these museums helps protect the museums’ staff and volunteers, who are often more vulnerable senior citizens and veterans.
Furthermore, many airshows have been canceled including our favorite Planes of Fame Airshow in Chino, California. For many museums this has meant a drastic drop in funding, vital for maintaining aircraft and keeping them in flying condition. If you have already bought tickets, please consider donating the price of the ticket to the museum to keep these aircraft preserved for more to enjoy!
If we all follow the key preventative measures for addressing this pandemic, it will hopefully be over soon, and aviation museums will reopen. In the meantime, we invite you for a quick guide on how to visit aviation museums without leaving the safety of your home. All that’s required is a device with internet access!
We’ll start with some shameless self-promotion. As you probably know, on our website we only include museums that we have visited in person. You can browse all museums grouped by state or click the icon on our interactive map.
As of now, we’ve published thirty-one, with almost thirty more waiting in the pipeline. Since this website is only a side project for the team, it sometimes takes a while to go over hundreds of photos and write an article post. Each of our museum posts includes some basic museum history, notable aircraft descriptions and other interesting facts. We also provide pertinent museum information including hours of operation, admission prices, phone numbers, and link to their websites. Unique to our website is the interactive satellite map included with every museum post, useful for viewing museums’ outdoor aircraft collections from above. This feature is not available on mobile phones.
Finally, with each visit we take plenty of pictures so make sure to take a look at the gallery located at the bottom of each museum article where you can rate it and also leave a comment. While our website is geared more towards discovering museums for you to visit (when not in quarantine), it can undoubtedly be used for some virtual exploring as well!
National Museum of the US Air Force
The National Museum of the US Air Force located six miles northeast of Dayton, Ohio, boasts a separate website dedicated to virtually touring their facility. It’s comprised of a collection of 360-degree panoramas taken throughout the museum that one can navigate between using on-screen arrows or by using the drop-down list of all galleries. Some locations will have special on-screen icons indicating additional content such as videos, audio, or links to other resources. The interface also allows you to experience the tour in a WebVR environment (virtual reality) with a VR-capable device.
You can also put yourself in the pilot seat of many of their aircraft with 360-degree panoramas taken by AeroCapture Images. Unique aircraft that can be viewed from the inside using these panoramas include their North American XB-70 Valkyrie, Boeing B-1B Lancer, Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk, and many more.
National Naval Aviation Museum
The National Naval Aviation Museum, located on the grounds of NAS Pensacola, also offers a virtual tour of featuring over 100 panorama images. All the pictures are captured in high resolution allowing the virtual visitor to zoom in to explore aircraft details. If you see an “i” information icon over an aircraft or exhibit, click on the icon to open a window with information about that display. Many panoramas were also taken inside of cockpits. Available is also a special interior tour, showing all sections of the only surviving Consolidated PB2Y Coronado.
Pima Air Museum
Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona, is one of the largest aviation museums in the world, with a collection of over 320 aircraft. Almost all of them can be viewed during a virtual museum walk-through courtesy of Google Street View. While it’s not the same as being there in-person to witness the size of colossal aircraft like the Convair B-36J Peacemaker or Aero Spacelines 377G “Super Guppy”, at least you don’t need to worry about the brutal Arizona sun. The museum also has a live feed of their main outdoor display section. Click the live feed button on their home page to view it.
Museum of Flight
The Museum of Flight in Seattle offers 3D virtual tours of some of their aircraft captured by a Matterport 3D Camera and more traditional 360 panoramas. Some of the aircraft available for virtual tours include a Boeing 247D, Douglas DC-2, Boeing B-29 Superfortress and the supersonic Concorde.
AeroCapture Images Cockpit360
Many of the cockpit panoramas mentioned above were taken by Lyle Jansma, a photographer who founded AeroCapture Images and launched the Cockpit360 app, available for free on both Apple and Android devices. The current collection includes approximately 100 virtual cockpits from the aforementioned National Museum of the U.S. Air Force and Museum of Flight as well as the Erickson Aircraft Collection, Texas Flying Legends, Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Evergreen Air & Space Museum, CAF Arizona Wing, Cavanaugh Flight Museum and many others. You can also take a look inside the Blue Angels’ Lockheed C-130 Hercules “Fat Albert”, which serves as their logistics aircraft.
If you know of any other interesting aviation museum offering virtual touring options, please include a link in the comments to share with others.