Home Travel Take Off on an Adventure Through NY’s Rich Aviation History

Take Off on an Adventure Through NY’s Rich Aviation History

by Ohio Digital News

Credit: @vtom61 on Instagram

From Manhattan to Niagara Falls, history comes to life at aviation museums throughout New York State. With one of the greatest aircraft collections in the nation, New York’s aeronautical museums honor the state’s vital role in aviation. Soar to new heights as you immerse yourself in the history of the flying machines that changed the world, and learn about the early pioneers of the air, military heroes, jet aircraft carriers, and aviation technology of the future in some of the world’s most innovative museums. Come fly with us in New York State!

Empire State Aerosciences Museum

Credit: @scottallengetsaround on Instagram

A one-of-a-kind museum dedicated to interpreting aviation, the Empire Aerosciences Museum is home to over 20 restored aircraft, and offers exhibits and interactive displays in two buildings, a simulated reality vehicle ride, and the state’s largest aviation research library, with more than 10,000 books, over 5,000 photographs, and over 6,000 other archival documents. The museum’s large hangar and outer buildings at Schenectady County Airport in Glenville were originally occupied by the General Electric Flight Test Center, where groundbreaking jet engine research and other aviation advances were pioneered. Some of the notable aircrafts that call this museum home include: Republic F-105F Thunderchief, North American T-2C Buckeye, Chanute Glider, and Bell UH-1H Iroquois.

Oriskany Village Museum

Just north of Utica you’ll find a historic site that commemorates the Battle of Oriskany, the aircraft carrier CV/CVA-34 USS Oriskany, and the origin of the small village itself. Free and open to the public, the Oriskany Village Museum houses the Douglas NA-4E Skyhawk and boasts a collection that spans American history, from Native American arrowheads to Vietnam War flight gear. Located specifically in Trinkaus Park, the site features the anchor from the USS Oriskany, A4-Skyhawk airplane, tennis courts, and a playground.

National Warplane Museum

Soar into the past as you visit the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo. Specializing in the restoration of flying-condition World War II aircraft, the museum’s collection includes more than 30 vintage planes and engines, history exhibits of documents and artifacts from military men and women, and a gallery that showcases pieces from leading aviation artists. Recently, the museum celebrated the 80th birthday of their iconic Whiskey 7 aircraft. Other rare planes on display include one of the last McDonnell FH-1 Phantom fighters in existence, one of the 10 flying B-17’s, the first C-45H Expeditor, and the last surviving Douglas BTD-1 Destroyer. It is also home to an annual airshow which is one of the few in the country that takes place on grass and not asphalt.

A red boat plane from Glenn Curtiss Museum flying over the lake

If you’ve ever felt an intense need for speed, you’ll relate to Glenn H. Curtiss, the “Fastest Man on Earth.” At the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in the village of Hammondsport, you’ll learn about the legendary in-air and on-ground accomplishments of this award-winning aviation pioneer. At a young age, Curtiss became obsessed with bicycles and their speed, and progressed from being a champion racer to designing and building his own bikes, motorcycles, and aircraft, all of which served as inspiration for the series of books, “The Adventures of Tom Swift.” The museum is home to hundreds of priceless artifacts relating to both early aviation and local history, a 75-seat theater, museum store, and a full-scale reproduction of the first naval aircraft as well as a 1912 “Pusher,” 1913 “E Model” flying boat, award-winning 1908 June Bug, and original 1927 Curtiss “Robin.” In addition to viewing rare flying machines, you can check out the new Innovation Arcade which has a wind tunnel, cockpit, speed simulator, and interactive stations on invention and creativity.

Wings of Eagles Discovery Center

Spread your wings and fly over to the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center, an aviation and aerospace museum and STEM learning center. Their aircraft collection covers a range of technological and cultural advances in aviation and aerospace dating from World War II to the present. Feel what it’s like to be airborne when you step into their flight simulators and Mars-based escape rooms, check out the exhibits containing engines and missiles, or tour the 25,000-square-foot hangar with aircraft on display inside and out. Some of the prized aircraft housed here include: the Piper J-3C Cub, Hughes OH-6A Cayuse, McDonnell FH-1 Phantom, and the Douglas B-26B Invader.

National Soaring Museum, Elmira

Motorless flight is honored in Elmira, the Soaring Capital of the World. At the National Soaring Museum you will discover one of the largest collections of historical and vintage gliders and sailplanes in the world. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in exciting events and hands-on exhibits, and view amazing soaring demonstrations. The collection includes approximately 60 ships and the museum’s archives include soaring photographs and documents that date back to the late 1800s. Some of the gliders and sailplanes on display include: Hall Cherokee II RM, Berkshire Concept 70, Pratt-Read PR-G1, Schweizer SGP1-1 Primary, and a replica of the Wright glider from 1911.

Niagara Aerospace Museum

Credit: @clo_hasan on Instagram

At the Niagara Aerospace Museum in Niagara Falls, you’ll be amazed at how many New Yorkers have contributed to the world’s aviation and space flight endeavors. The museum, dedicated to these pioneers, features vintage airplanes, helicopters and flight simulators, in addition to aircraft and rocket engines (including the first U.S. commercially licensed helicopter, the Bell Model 47), hands-on exhibits, and the personal memorabilia of local servicemen and women. After touring the museum, relax in the Lawrence D. Bell Theater, designed to resemble the interior of a jetliner where you can view historical aviation movies on a large screen. Additional aircraft on display here include: Curtiss P-1 Hawk, Standard Aero Corporation J-1, and a replica of the Curtiss A Pusher.

Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park

First opened to the public in 1979, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park has grown to become the largest inland Naval & Military Park in the country. Located on Buffalo’s iconic waterfront, Canalside, this unique family destination features an expansive outdoor exhibit with military aircraft and helicopters on display. The site also includes an indoor museum which is home to various artifacts from multiple branches of the United States Armed Forces. Hanging from the ceiling is a P-39 Airacobra, one of 9,500 P-39 Airacobras built at Bell Aircraft in Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The aircraft was noted for a revolutionary aircraft design in which the armament was given priority over speed and maneuverability. The plane was also one of the first United States military aircraft to have retractable tricycle landing gear. More aircraft on exhibit at the park include: the Bell UH-1H Iroquois, McDonnell TF-101B Voodoo, North American Aviation AGM-28 Hound Dog, and the Gyrodyne XHOG-1.

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome

Take to the air in a vintage 1920s biplane at one of the country’s most unique museums, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Rhinebeck! This living history museum in the air thrills visitors during regularly scheduled weekend air shows (June 15 – October 20, 2024). Saturdays feature early Pioneer aircraft, a World War I dogfight demonstration, and barnstorming biplanes of the 1920s and 1930s. On Sundays, watch World War I aircraft shows and a melodrama complete with comical characters such as Trudy Truelove, The Evil Baron of Rhinebeck, and Sir Percy Goodfellow. At the Aerodrome you’ll see one of the country’s largest collections of antique airplanes presented in an outdoor setting, with aircraft including a 1902 Wright Glider, a British Sopwith Camel, German Fokkers, and other mainstays of World War I dogfights, as well as relics from the great barnstorming days. Best of all, you can be a barnstormer! Don the provided helmet and goggles and enjoy a spectacular view of the Hudson Valley from the air in the open cockpit of a 1929 biplane. Biplane rides are available weekdays and weekends May – October.

Cradle of Aviation Museum -- Photo by Jennifer Baxmeyer

Immerse yourself in over 100 years of aerospace history at one of the most exciting aerospace collections in the world! The 150,000-square-foot Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City features over 60 historic aircraft and scale models of airplanes, including Charles Lindbergh’s Curtiss Jenny, the A-10 Thunderbolt II and Grumman F-14 Tomcat, and an unused Apollo Lunar Module. The original full-size lunar module was recently refurbished by HBO for the mini-series, “From the Earth to the Moon.” Highlighting the area’s spirited aerospace industry, displays include Long Island-built airplanes that helped America and its allies triumph in World War II. Visitors travel to places beyond their wildest dreams in the museum’s domed IMAX theater, with presentations such as The Magic of Flight, a simulation of the wonders of flying, from the days of the Wright Brothers to the Blue Angels. The museum also has eight chronologically arranged galleries and more than 30 hands-on exhibits.

Located on the old Grumman/Calverton airfield in Calverton, Grumman Memorial Park pays tribute to the advances in aviation and aerospace that took place on Long Island and to the employees of the Grumman Corporation. With an F-14A Tomcat built by Grumman as its centerpiece, the park is expanding from one to 10 acres and will include a Grumman A-6 Intruder and an E-2C Hawkeye in their exhibits.

American Airpower Museum

Jet over to Farmingdale to check out the American Airpower Museum, located in the hangars that once housed Republic Aviation, the producer of more than 9,000 P-47 Thunderbolts used during World War II. The collection includes a flight-ready Thunderbolt; of the thousands built during World War II, only six remain airworthy. Other museum aircraft include a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-25 Mitchell bomber and an F-4U Corsair fighter. With vintage aircraft taxiing to the very runways and hangars that dispatched the Thunderbolts to war, the museum exhibits these historic planes in their natural environment – the air.

In the quaint hamlet of Bayport, you’ll find one of aviation’s best-kept secrets and an iconic landmark in Long Island’s unique aviation history. The 50-acre airfield is a time capsule with its collection of vintage open cockpit airplanes. Adding to the sky-high splendor, its 2,740 ft x 150 ft grass runway is a true-life field of dreams, the only remaining public grass landing field left on Long Island.

Along the shore of Brooklyn’s Jamaica Bay, the HARP museum is located in Hangar B of the Floyd Bennett Field. This airfield was New York City’s first municipal airport. Today the interiors of the airport’s structures and its runways are just as they were in the 1930s-40s. A museum in Hangar B features restored aircraft, and the facility’s Visitors Center houses a vintage control tower. A few of the dozen aircraft on display here include: the Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican, Boeing C-97G Stratofreighter, Douglas A4D-2 Skyhawk, and the Lockheed SP-2E Neptune. A visit here will have you time traveling back to 1945 as you see, hear, and feel what it’s like to be in a working airplane hangar.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum - Photo by Julienne Schaer Courtesy of NYC&CO

Right on the Hudson River in Manhattan you can tour the Intrepid Museum. Visitors can climb inside a replica of a Revolutionary War submarine, ride on a jet flight simulator, and follow the progress of astronauts as they work in space. While most museums are buildings that contain artifacts, the U.S.S. Intrepid, a retired Essex Class aircraft carrier, is the artifact. The hallowed decks of this ship now hold more than 30 aircraft telling the story of aviation. In the ship’s cavernous hangar deck, a variety of exhibits honor heroes of our past and offer a glimpse of the technology being developed to defend our future. Year round events include the annual Fleet Week celebration in May and educational programs. Swoop in to catch up-close views of 28 aircraft including the world’s fastest military jet, Bell AH-1J Sea Cobra, North American F-1C Fury, and the General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcon.

At the renowned Museum of Modern Art in New York City, you can get up close and personal to the Bell 47D-1. This chopper weighs 1,380 pounds and was awarded the world’s first commercial helicopter license by the US Civil Aeronautics Administration (now the Federal Aviation Administration). Its maximum speed is 92 miles per hour, with a maximum range of 194 miles. It can hover like a dragonfly at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet.

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