The Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center, founded as the Travis Air Museum in the 1980s, is located on the grounds of the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. The base, constructed during WWII as a Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base was later renamed in honor of Brigadier General Robert F. Travis, tragically killed in a B-29 Superfortress crash on August 5th, 1950.
The base is often referred to as the “Gateway to the Pacific” due to its role as the main airlift hub in the western United States. It is currently the busiest military terminal for cargo and passengers in the United States. Throughout the years it has been home to fleets of Douglas C-124 Globemasters II, Douglas C-133 Cargomasters and Lockheed C-141 Starlifters. All three can be viewed when visiting the museum.
To visit the museum without a DoD ID card, all visitors over 18 must present a valid photo ID at the visitor center and pass a background check. Non-US citizens are advised to contact the visitor center in advance. Once you receive your pass a friendly museum docent will shuttle you and your group between the gate and the museum. This might change in the future as the foundation running the museum is looking to move the collection, possibly to a lot at the Nut Tree Airport in the nearby Vacaville.
On the day we visited, the museum offered tours inside their Douglas C-133A Cargomaster. The plane, tail number 56-1999, was flown from Alaska to the museum in August 2008 as the last flyable C-133. The Cargomaster was the largest turboprop transport plane to be used by the United States Air Force. Only 50 were produced, 35 as model As and 15 model Bs. Its large tail door and cargo area allowed to transport oversized and heavy loads including sections of the Titan, Atlas and Saturn rockets. The museum’s Cargomaster also delivered booster engines to Cape Canaveral for the Mercury & Gemini Space Programs.
The Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, which can be viewed while driving from the main gate to the museum, will soon be joined by the Air Force’s second-to-last operational Lockheed C-5A Galaxy. The plane arrived at the base in July 2017 and when all the preparation is complete, it will be towed to its final resting spot adjacent to the Starlifter. Perhaps, someday they will be joined by a Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy which is currently the main aircraft operated out of Travis AFB.
The Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center also exhibits other cargo and passenger transport planes including a Normandy invasion veteran Douglas C-47A Skytrain, Fairchild C-119G Flying Boxcar, Fairchild C-123K Provider, de Havilland C-7A Caribou, Douglas C-118A Liftmaster, Lockheed C-56 Lodestar, and Beechcraft C-45H Expeditor. Other notable aircraft include a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Grumman HU-16 Albatross, Boeing B-52D Stratofortress, Beech AT-11 Kansan and Douglas A-26K Invader.
There are also several jet fighters in the museum’s collection including a North American F-86L Sabre Dog, Republic F-84F Thunderjet and all almost all the Century Series jets: the North American F-100A Super Sabre, McDonnell F-101B Voodoo, Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, Lockheed F-104A Starfighter and Republic F-105D Thunderchief. They are accompanied by the first American jet trainer, the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star.
Several indoor exhibits dedicated to aviation history, USAF and Travis AFB specifically are presented inside of the main museum building. Visitors can also view early liaison, observation and trainer aircraft including a Piper L-4 Grasshopper, Stinson L-5 Sentinel, Cessna AT-17 Bobcat, Fairchild PT-19 Cornell and Vultee BT-13 Valiant. The large Engine Room exhibits a collection of aircraft engines including the Wright Cyclone Model C14B (R-2600-13). That engine model was also known as a Twin Cyclone and was used in Boeing 314 Clipper, Grumman TBF Avenger and North American B-25 Mitchell among others.