Oahu is home to the most amazing beaches, sparkling waters, unmatched surf, stunning sunsets, and one of America´s most iconic and historic sites.
We are talking, of course, about Pearl Harbor.
And no Pearl Harbor trip is truly complete without a visit to the onsite Pacific Aviation Museum.
Known as “America’s Aviation Battlefield,” the museum provides a stunning visual narrative of aviation’s role in the history of the Pacific.
What To Expect At The Pacific Aviation Museum
The Pacific Aviation Museum offers access to two World War II-era hangars — both of which survived the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor — as well as the Ford Island Control Tower.
As you explore these historic treasures, keep your eyes open for the details that truly bring home the gravity of what happened on the “date which will live in infamy” — as President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it — including bullet holes, strafe marks, and bomb craters that serve as scars from the attack.
As you walk around the hangars, it’s as if you are whisked back in time and exploring one of the most noteworthy eras in human history.
Your official museum visit begins with a short introductory film in the onsite 200-seat theater. The film really sets the tone for what life was like following the aftermath of the attack, as it includes first-hand accounts and memories shared by survivors.
After the introductory film, you will get the opportunity to view a stunning display of vintage aircrafts — 48 aircrafts, in total, including the instantly recognizable Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and its nemesis, the Mitsubishi Zero, which was the actual 1942 Stearman Biplane flown by President George H.W. Bush.
Also onsite are the remnants of the “Ni‘ihau Zero,” which crash-landed on Ni‘ihau Island after the Pearl Harbor attack.
A Stunning Visual of Aviation’s Evolution
The exhibit includes much more, including some of aviation’s most iconic military aircraft, like the B-17 “Swamp Ghost” Flying Fortress, the F-15 Eagle, and the AH-1 Cobra, among others.
This museum has it all, from propeller planes to the jets of the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and beyond — all of which serves to offer an insightful, and compelling, visual timeline of aviation history.
It truly is remarkable to see the evolution in aviation over time as advancements led to ever faster and stealthier aircraft.
Pacific Aviation Museum Offers More Than Military Aviation History
It may surprise you to know that the museum is not just a hall of fame for the most incredible and impressive military aircrafts.
It also houses a treasure trove of civilian aviation representation, among which includes artifacts detailing the historic trans-Pacific flights of Pan American Airlines at a time when air travel was viewed as a luxury.
There is also a must-see photo exhibit capturing legendary female aviator Amelia Earhart’s time spent in Hawaii.
The Human Story Behind the Scenes
The Pacific Aviation Museum offers a unique behind-the-scenes view of what it was really like to live through the most significant aviation events throughout history.
For example, the museum runs a series of docent-led tours to enhance your visitor experience. Many of these docents are retired aviation veterans, which means they have first-hand knowledge of the planes on exhibit, allowing them to offer amazing personal anecdotes and other fascinating inside, expert facts while you wind your way through the museum tour.
Fancy a Top Gun Moment of Your Very Own?
After taking in all the exhibits at the museum, you can indulge your inner aviation fantasies by climbing into the cockpit of the museum’s combat flight simulator and trying your hand at becoming an ace, just like Tom Cruise’s Maverick in Top Gun!
Finally, after all that visiting and learning, you will surely have worked up an appetite, so it will delight you to know that the best food on Ford Island just happens to be served at Laniakea Café, located right in the museum.
Alongside the café is the museum store, where you can stock up on memorabilia after you’ve enjoyed your meal.