Museum Mayhem (Part 1): Air Mobility Command Museum

9C8601B3-1F51-4CAF-9434-9C5D9F140320In my part of the world, winter means lousy weather, cold temps and very little plane spotting. It also means I go through serious aviation withdrawals. Ugh! So how do I combat the winter doldrums? Aviation museums! They allow me to get my aviation fix and keep my camera from getting too dusty. Recently I got the opportunity to visit a museum I hadn’t been to before: the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, Delaware.

0A24DAAA-7EFD-4D75-879E-3DF1A13F577EI’ve been wanting to check it out for quite some time. As the name suggests, the museum focuses on military transport and aerial refueling airplanes. In other words, the big planes. And you know how much I love the big planes! As if that weren’t cool enough, the museum is located right next to Dover AFB, home to the 436th Airlift Wing which flies both the C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster. From the moment I saw those tails in the distance I was already completely in love with the place… and I hadn’t even parked yet!

First thing to know if you plan to visit is that most of the airplanes are outside. It rained the morning that I went, but fortunately it had stopped before I got there. The gloomy weather meant that there weren’t many people around so I practically had the museum to myself! I started by exploring the indoor exhibits. Even though the space is somewhat small, there was still plenty to see, including an exhibit on the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots), a mock-up of a C-5 flight deck and a refueling boom from a KC-135. There are also several airplanes including a C-47A Skytrain and a B-17G “Sleepy Time Gal.”

Then I zipped up my jacket and headed outside. Oh my goodness they have some amazing airplanes! I was thrilled to see a few of my favorite heavy haulers including a C-5, a C-130, a KC-135 and TWO C-141 Starlifters – an A model and a B model. They also had several planes that I am less familiar with, including the C-119G Flying Boxcar and the C-124A Globemaster II. And there were a few planes I didn’t expect at all, like the F-101B Voodoo and the F-106A Delta Dart.

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A Pakistan Air Force Ilyushin Il-78 parked at Dover AFB

The entire time I was outside enjoying the exhibits, I was also keeping an eye on the AFB on the other side of the fence. I have never seen so many C-5s and C-17s all in one place! I just couldn’t stop staring at them!  Then much to my surprise another one of my favorite airplanes appeared – an Atlas 747! It taxied onto the apron, parked and began unloading cargo.  Want to make a 747 look small?  Park it next to a bunch of C-5s!

Next stop was a visit to the ATC tower. It used to be the active tower at Dover AFB. When a new tower was built they brought the old tower over to the museum. They lowered the height a bit to make it easier to climb up, but the view is still spectacular. Some of the old ATC equipment was left in place so you can get a feel for what it looked like when it was operational.  The tower is definitely one of the best parts of the museum.

The only person in the tower while I was there was one of the museum volunteers. We chatted for at least half an hour about the various planes in the museum’s collection. I learned that the C-141B was originally destined to be scrapped. However, a hard landing at Dover AFB damaged the landing gear so rather than risk flying on to the boneyard, it was moved over to the museum instead. (Now that’s what I call a good bad landing!)

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Saved from the boneyard! This is one lucky “Lizard.”

My time at the museum flew by and all too soon it was time to head home. I plan to return on one of the open cockpit days which are held the third Saturday of the month between April and October. Did I mention there is no charge for admission or parking? I put some money in the donation box, though, because the Air Mobility Command museum is definitely worth supporting. I hope you’ll go and see for yourself!

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2 thoughts on “Museum Mayhem (Part 1): Air Mobility Command Museum

  1. Cool post! You’re so right – aviation museums are the perfect way to get a deeply satisfying aircraft fix when the sky isn’t on our side. Most museum’s are staffed by volunteers who are there solely because they love planes, and most of them have some amazing knowledge or stories that they are just waiting to share. Looking is awesome; having a chat is often even better. Sadly, a lot of museums are kind of empty a lot of the time. I’m amazed how many long term residents turn up at our local museum and say they had no idea it existed! Come on people: Google + ‘aviation museum” = Happiness!
    Secondly – you so lucky! What an incredible place to visit, and what an amazing collection of aircraft. I’m definitely adding it to my neverending aviation tour of the US. …It’s a very deep bucket.
    And finally, as a follow-up activity that’ll make the rest of winter fly by, check out Lt.Gen. William H Tunner’s ‘Over The Hump’. It’s an amazing personal history of U.S. air mobility. Tunner was part of the Command from its inception. He took over the Himalayan airlift in WW2, then commanded the Berlin Airlift, plus airlift for Korea and (I think) Vietnam. He was directly responsible for several of the heavies you saw at Dover. Best of all, you can read the whole book for free. Just download the PDF to your iPad, Kindle or whatever. It’s available on archive.org or here:
    https://media.defense.gov/2010/Sep/28/2001329799/-1/-1/0/AFD-100928-057.pdf
    It’s a great book (about a great man). Enjoy! (And apologies for the novel-length comment!)

    Like

    • Thanks so much for reading and for all the information! I will definitely have to check out that book! And yes, if you are ever in the area, the Air Mobility Command museum is definitely worth a visit.

      Like

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