The Arkansas Air Museum is the boarding pass to the beginning of aviation. Start your adventure with a close look at unusual memorabilia spanning the history of manned flight. Inspect an authentic World War I-era Curtiss OX-5 engine. See the City of Fayetteville flag which was flown aboard the Space Shuttle "Discovery." Much more than static displays, many of the aircraft in the Arkansas Air Museum collection are still airworthy. That's why we call it a museum that flies. Then enter the Museum's all-wood hangar and return to the golden age of flight. Pause as you walk among the airplanes on display to look up at the soaring roof of the hangar and the massive arches that support it. And reflect that it cost, in those war days of shortages and high-priced labor, only $15,000 when it was built during World War II. On the hanger floor is a collection of the open cockpit biplanes and closed cabin monoplanes that carried pioneering airmen and women into the skies of the nation from 1929 to 1969. Learn about the special history of Arkansas aviation through photos and portraits of the members of the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame. Among the various displays are salutes to northwest Arkansas World War I flying ace Field Kindley, golden age aviation record-setter and pioneer Louise Thaden, commercial airline Skyways and Drake Field's role in the training of aviators for the Second World War. In the museum's restoration shop, you can watch antique airplanes being brought back to life under the care of master craftsmen. If you have questions about what is being done, just ask. Our aircraft restorers are always more than willing to tell you about what they're doing.
Conceived in Dec. 1985 and opened to the public in August 1986, the Arkansas Aviation Museum quickly established itself as the state's first, and largest, air museum. Serving as the chair for the city of Fayetteville's Arkansas Sesquicentennial committee, Marilyn Johnson envisioned the state's first museum facility dedicated solely Arkansas' rich aviation heritage as Fayetteville's contribution to the 150th anniversary of statehood. Founded in January 1986, Johnson enlisted eight local aviation legends and enthusiasts -- Ray Ellis, Bob and Jim Younkin, Floyd Carl, Jim McDonald, Larry Brown, Ernest Lancaster and Bob McKinney -- to form the first museum board of directors. The board knew exactly where the museum must be located. Known simply as the "White Hangar," the all-wooden structure at Fayetteville's Drake Field had been at the center of most of northwest Arkansas' aviation history. It was fitting that one of the nation's few remaining all-wood hangers from the World War II era would become the museum site. But it needed refurbishing, and $122,000 later, the Arkansas Aviation Museum opened to the public in August 1986. Initially the museum was open on a part-time schedule, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Now the museum is open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a full-time staff to oversee the collection of aircraft and aviation memorabilia. The Arkansas Air Museum collection is a mixture of classic aircraft in flight service condition from the 1920s and 1930s, modern planes from the post-World War II era and static displays of key military aircraft from the Vietnam era. The heart of the collection are the still-flying aircraft on loan from private owners. The number of aircraft in the museum hanger space varies from eight to 14 as the owner still fly and tour these aircraft. The first full-time museum director was Thomas "Pete" Jordan. Hired Feb. 1, 1989, Pete Jordan would remain with the museum until March 1991. During his tenure, the museum hosted several exhibitions ranging from ultra-lite exhibits, model aircraft shows and hosted the last Fayetteville Air Show in 1990. Jordan established a Scout Explorer Post which lasted from March 1990 to March 1991, as well as a Civil Air Patrol squadron during the 1987-88 school year. John Kalagias took over as museum director on Oct. 5, 1991. Kalagias began acquiring a permanent collection for the museum, with a Howard DGA-18K as the first aircraft owned by the AAM. The World War II low-wing trainer was donated to the AAM by Bob Gast of Steger, Ill. This particular Howard is significant to Fayetteville since it was used during World War II for training pilots at Drake Field as a part of the War Training Service classes in 1942-43. The collection grew with the addition of static displays from the Vietnam Conflict, starting with a Bell UH-1H Huey in 1993 from the Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Ala., then a Bell AH-1S HueyCobra gunship from the Arkansas National Guard in 1995. Kalagias also oversaw the addition and full exterior restoration of a U.S. Navy Douglas A-4C Skyhawk carrier fighter jet. Brought to the museum after its retirement at Memphis N.A.S., the Skyhawk was returned to its markings when it served on the U.S.S. America. During the last three years, the museum has hosted numerous Confederate Air Force visitors, including the B-29 Fifi, the B-17 "Texas Raiders," a C-46 and B-24 Liberator just to name a few. Barnstorming visits by former U.S.A.F. parachute altitude record holder Joe Kittinger and his 1930 New Standard biplane have become regulars, and the AAM celebrated its 10th anniversary with AIRFEST '96, including a dinner-dance and special static displays.