November is the official kick-off to the holiday season. Thanksgiving takes center stage as the top holiday of the month, but there are a lot of other holidays and recognitions that take place during the eleventh month of the year.
National Aviation History Month is celebrated during the month of November. In Michigan, we may have quite the history with cars thanks to Henry Ford, but we have an extensive history regarding flight as well. Learning to fly changed travel, warfare, transport, and entertainment in significant ways. Check out these aviation museums and exhibits across the state in honor of National Aviation History Month.
Yankee Air Museum, Van Buren Charter Township
“The Museum is a Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum with rare historical aircraft ranging from World War I to the Gulf War. Visit today and get inspired by the hands-on interactive STEM exhibits, science-based camps, educational tours, unique aviation artifacts, and more!” Current exhibits (as of November 2023) include Women Answer the Call, the Vietnam War, World War II, World War I featuring the Spad XIII, Deep Landings (all about aircraft carrier pilots), Tuskegee Airmen, and Michigan’s Ambassador in Blue (the career of Col. Doug Road, Romulus, Michigan). Plus, the museum has extensive collections from throughout America’s aeronautical and aerospace industries. There’s a hands on area for budding pilots.
Henry Ford, Dearborn
A jewel among museums large and small, the Henry Ford has an exhibit to attract visitors of all ages and interests. For National Aviation History Month, visit Heroes of the Sky, which takes you through the history of flight – from the earliest explorers and inventors through 50 years of flight evolution. Get a small taste of Kitty Hawk, sit inside authentically recreated fuselages of several aircraft, and “take a flight” on a flight simulator.
Airman National Historical Museum, Detroit
According to the website, “The museum is a repository for the oral and written history of the Tuskegee Airmen and boasts the largest collection of Airmen artifacts in the world. With respect for the past and solid investment in the future, the museum is proud to be a springboard to inspire the next generation of aviators and aerospace enthusiasts through targeted youth programs. The museum tells the story of the profound and exceptional contributions of these men who signed up to fight for America bringing the country to victory during World War II, despite racial segregation and the debilitating limitations of a racially charged and deeply divided and unequal society.” There are several classes offered for area youth on Thursday evenings, year-round, including drone piloting and A&P Maintenance familiarization. The primary exhibit is at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American on E. Warren Street in Detroit, which is open five days a week during regular business hours. There are also two other locations: Coleman A. Young International Airport and Historic Fort Wayne, which both require a call to make an appointment.
Selfridge Military Air Museum, Harrison Township
This museum, located on an active national guard base, is dedicated to the military aviation history, as well as “preserve the heritage and traditions of the Michigan Air National Guard, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, and the units that are/or were stationed there.” Since the air park displays are located on an active base, you need to provide appropriate documentation, including driver’s license, vehicle registration, and vehicle insurance. Walk around the air park displays. This is a wonderful museum at which to see several aircraft from across several eras, all in one location and up close for viewing.
Wurtsmith Air Museum, Oscoda
“The Wurtsmith Air Museum is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, dedicated to preserving the history of Wurtsmith Air Force Base and aviation in Northeastern Michigan. “We offer visitors three hangars full of military (all branches) and aviation history, static aircraft displays, artifacts, equipment and lots of WAFB memorabilia.”
K.I. Sawyer Heritage Air Museum, Marquette
There used to be another military base in the state of Michigan, this time in Marquette. K.I. Sawyer is a former Air Force base turned museum. The new mission? “… committed to developing and promoting aviation, both Military and Civilian, by understanding the history of aviation in the Upper Peninsula. We are here to aid in the education of the general population on the importance of airpower in the defense of our nation and the growth of aviation in or national economy.” The museum has seasonal hours as well as various days of the week depending on that season. There is no admission fee.
Fighting Falcon Military Museum, Greenville
This little gem of a museum is in recognition of significant local history that characterized a town forever. Back in 1942, a refrigerator company, Gibson Refrigerator Company, had to turn its efforts to the war effort when it received a contract for production of CG-4A troop-carrying gliders (in addition to other defense contracts). The red brick building used to operate as a school. Although the glider was the impetus of the museum and the focal point, the museum has expanded since its opening to include exhibits from the Civil War, World War I, World War II in Europe and the Pacific, the Korean conflict, Viet Nam and more recent conflicts. Open only on Sundays from 2-4:30 p.m.
Air Zoo, Kalamazoo
Air Zoo “is a world-class, Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum with over 100 air and space artifacts, inspiring interactive exhibits, full-motion flight simulators, indoor amusement park rides and hands-on, science-based camps and classes,” according to the website. You could easily spend an entire, full day looking through the exhibits, jumping on a simulator, and enjoying the handful of amusement park rides. There is plenty of historical, educational information to look through, but it truly becomes more present with the existence of the artifacts and aircraft in front of you. Kids and families will love visiting this incredible museum, which is open most of the year, seven days of the week.
Michigan History Museum, Lansing
When you visit our state’s capitol, walk two blocks west of the capitol building plans to the Michigan History Museum, which is located in the Michigan Library and Historical Center Building. There are multiple floors of Michigan history to explore, from the Ice Age until the 20th century. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10-4, and Sunday 1-5. Admission is modest.