In the Mid-Atlantic, opportunities to explore the story of flight — and even try it — surround us. Choose the experience — or experiences — that elevate you and help your imagination take flight. From the dawn of powered flight to launches into outer space, our region has been one of the incubators of humans’ quest to fly.
PENNSYLVANIA Flight 93 National Memorial, Shanksville
“A common field one day. A field of honor forever.” The memorial honors the sacrifice of the 50 passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93, who gave their lives on 9/11 to stop terrorists attempting to crash the plane into the U.S. Capitol. The Tower of Voices, a 93-foot musical instrument with 40 wind chimes denoting the 40 passengers and crew killed at Shanksville, is due to be dedicated around Sept. 11, 2018.
Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, Reading
Guided tours lasting about 90 minutes are available, and you can see some of the restoration projects that are underway. The 28th annual World War II weekend, June 1–3, includes WWII aircraft on exhibit, acrobatics demonstration, and rides on authentic WWII aircraft. There are also a host of reenactors, vehicles and equipment, and other activities. “You walk in the gate and you walk back into the 1940s,” said the museum’s Russ Strine.
DELAWARE Air Mobility Command Museum, Dover AFB
A stunning array of military workhorse aircraft. The free museum houses more than 30 cargo haulers, fighters, helicopters, and a bomber, as well as a plane that served vice presidents, first ladies, and even presidents on occasion. Open Cockpit Day is the third Saturday of each month between April and October. The museum opens up some of its more impressive planes for guided tours.
MARYLAND College Park Aviation Museum, College Park
The Wright Brothers started it all at Kitty Hawk and they also founded the world’s first airportin College Park. It initially was constructed to give flying lessons to three Signal Corps lieutenants who were the first military pilots. “This is the oldest continuously operating airport in the world,” said the museum’s Rob Verbsky. “We present the history of early aviation from 1909 to World War II, and explore what life was like in the early 20th century.”
Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum, Middle River
The museum has collected more than a dozen aircraft and offers exhibits that tell the story of aviation and space history in Maryland and the contributions of Glenn L. Martin and his successful company. The museum also offers a series of Open Cockpit Days, when visitors can climb into the cockpits of some of the aircraft.
Hagerstown Aviation Museum, Hagerstown
The museum hosts a series of summer Open Airplane Afternoons, when visitors can climb aboard and sit in the cockpit of some of the museum’s 20 historic aircraft. Twelve of those aircraft were built in Hagerstown. There’s also an annual Wings and Wheels event in September.
Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, Lexington Park
The museum presents the story of naval aviation, focusing on the research, development, testing, and evaluation activity at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. One interactive activity at the museum is the four-cockpit Mach combat simulator, in which you can have an aerial dogfight with your friends. The simulator operates Saturdays, 10:00am–5:00pm, and costs $10 for 30 minutes.
VIRGINIA AND WASHINGTON, D.C. Flying Circus Airshows, Bealton
More of an experience than a simple air show, the Flying Circus harkens back to the days of wing-walkers and barnstormers, when watching aerobatics was the pinnacle of entertainment. Every Sunday, May through October, thrill to the sight of biplanes or enjoy an open-cockpit plane ride. Join the fun at the Balloon Festival, Aug.18–19, or any of the other special events that fill the Flying Circus’ calendar.
Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach
militaryaviationmuseum.org, 757- 721-7767
The museum is home to one of the largest private collections of World War I- and World War II-era military aircraft in the world and open for tours. “Warbirds Over the Beach,” May 18–20, presents demonstrations, WWII reenactors, airplane rides, music, and food. The museum’s Flying Proms program June 16 brings an English tradition to America with vintage aircraft flying maneuvers accompanied by live music performed by a symphony orchestra. The focus shifts to WWI with “Biplanes and Brews,” Oct. 6–7. Enjoy hangar tours, reenactors, music, memorabilia, and food.
NASA Wallops Visitor Center, Wallops Island
Wallops is NASA’s only rocket launch range, launching and supporting suborbital and orbital rocket vehicles. The visitors center offers fun, educational public programs on the weekends and holidays that cover a variety of topics, including Wallops Flight Facility missions, model rocket launches, and earth and space science presentations.
Shannon Air Museum, Fredericksburg
The new 9,000-square-foot museum is still growing and offers a look at rare aircraft with engrossing stories that are told by enthusiastic staff. The only known surviving Vultee V-1A (custom built for William Randolph Hearst Sr.) and a prized SPAD VII biplane that survived World War I combat share space with a 1928 Bellanca CH-400 Skyrocket, the plane Charles Lindbergh really wanted for his Atlantic crossing.
Virginia Air and Space Center, Hampton
Explore 100 years of flight with more than 30 aircraft, flight simulators, space-flight artifacts, and a 3-D IMAX theater. Within the Virginia Air and Space Center, visitors can trace the course of manned flight through exhibits that reach from the earliest aviation experiments through today’s space travel. A new exhibit is the test unit for a Mars habitat. The visitor center for NASA Langley Research Center and Joint Base Langley, VASC’s multilevel architecture provides a close view of some ferocious-looking warbirds hanging from the ceiling.