Imagination Takes Flight at North Carolina’s Aviation Museums

You’d expect a state that welcomed the two brothers credited by The Smithsonian for “inventing the aerial age” to have some great aviation museums. North Carolina certainly does.

Whether you’re visiting our coast, mountains or somewhere between, you can visit museums that spotlight aviation history plus many other military, civilian and commercial planes, helicopters and flight memorabilia.

1 Airborne & Special Operations Museum

1 Airborne & Special Operations Museum

FayettevilleSee on mapSee on map

This museum moves you through time from the inception of airborne tactics in 1940 to today. The soaring lobby of the facility on Bragg Boulevard graphically illustrates a timeline of airborne operations. It also features two fully deployed parachutes, a round one from World War II and today’s square design, suspended high above you. The museum’s theater screens special Vistascope films with edge-of-your-seat action. There's also a pitch, roll and yaw motion simulator that brings the airborne experience to life.

2 North Carolina Aviation Museum and Hall of Fame

2 North Carolina Aviation Museum and Hall of Fame

AsheboroSee on mapSee on map

Located next to Asheboro Municipal Airport, this hall of fame is dedicated to preserving the history and honoring the heritage of “the wonderfully wide, wide world of flight and beyond.” Here, you’ll find aircraft ranging from the J-2 Piper that Orville Wright flew near the end of his career to a B-25, BT-13, a C-45 and a French Broussard. Check out the war memorabilia, such as the 1941 Plymouth staff car, 1936 Ford coach, and World War I German machine gun.

3 Carolinas Aviation Museum

photo: Lowell Warner

3 Carolinas Aviation Museum

CharlotteSee on mapSee on map

One of the featured exhibits in this celebrated museum is the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane – the Airbus A-320 piloted to safety by Captain “Sully” Sullenberger in 2009. The museum’s collection showcases military, civilian and commercial aircraft, helicopters, equipment, gadgets and historic documents and materials covering decades of aviation history. You can enjoy interactive displays and even climb into the pilot’s seat of an F4 Phantom.

4 Western North Carolina Air Museum

4 Western North Carolina Air Museum

HendersonvilleSee on mapSee on map

This museum celebrates the Golden Age of General Aviation, the decades surrounding the World War II, when flying commanded the world’s attention and an airplane was in everybody’s future. You can fly back in time as you browse a collection that includes a 1930 Aeronca C-3, 1930 Curtiss Robin, 1931 Piper E-2, 1936 Piper J-2, 1941 Piper J-5, 1945 Stearman N4S, 1946 Piper J-3C-85, 1947 Aeronca 7DC, 1947 Cessna 120, 1947 Piper PA12, and Wittman W-8 Tailwind.

5 Wright Brothers National Memorial

5 Wright Brothers National Memorial

Kitty HawkSee on mapSee on map

This national memorial, atop 90-foot Big Kill Devil Hill, commemorates 12 seconds that changed the world. You’ll find a granite boulder that marks the spot where Orville and Wilbur Wrights’ plane left the ground to make history with the first controlled, powered airplane flight. Numbered markers indicate the distance of each of the four flights the brothers made Dec. 17, 1903. Several buildings recreate the 1903 camp, and a 3,000-foot runway allows small planes to touch down on the site that started it all.

6 Dare County Regional Airport Museum

6 Dare County Regional Airport Museum

ManteoSee on mapSee on map

The main attractions here are models of aircraft that played a part in the history of Outer Banks aviation and a pictorial history of John David Driskill. A local self-taught aviation pioneer, Driskill was known as one of the best test pilots in the country. You’ll also enjoy learning about Civil Air Patrol Base 16, one of 21 coastal bases that conducted air searches for German submarines during World War II.

 

Updated November 1, 2018
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