If you have not been to the Museum of Aviation recently, you don’t know what you’re missing. The facility combines one of the nation’s largest aeronautical and war history museums with one of Middle Georgia’s premier science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning centers and a venue for family-friendly events.
On October 28, 2017, Middle Georgia residents will have the opportunity to experience the very best that the Museum of Aviation has to offer. From 9 a.m. until 12 p.m., the Museum of Aviation Education Center will host exciting STEM workshops for students from grades pre-K through 12. During the afternoon, families can explore the museum. From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., the NASA Regional Educator Resource Center at the Museum of Aviation will have telescopes set up outside for stargazing and an informal astronomy lesson.
When you visit the Museum of Aviation, the first thing you see as you approach the entrance are two cruise missiles along the perimeter fence. Once inside the gate, you can see a large number of human piloted planes outside around the core museum buildings. For those who don’t want to walk, you can see all of the outside planes by driving the circle around grounds.
Right in front of the main entrance to the main building is a B1-B Lancer. The sleek, variable-sweep wing, strategic bomber was designed to be a long range supersonic cruising speed bomber to cope with the vulnerabilities of the workhorse B-52 Stratofortress (also on site). Although not an exceptionally large plane, you get a real feel for the size of bomber aircraft right away. It is a beautiful plane and although conceived in the 60s and designed in the 70s, it looks as modern as any newer aircraft.
Across the driveway is the bone whiteA-10 Thunderbolt II, better known as the Warthog for its unique pig-like appearance. What really sets the A-10 apart is that instead of it being a plane with a mounted weapon, it is a weapon with a mounted plane.
The Warthog is extremely tough and is designed to be able to return to base with one engine, half a wing and half the tail missing. It can also survive direct hits from armor piercing and explosive shells up to 23 mm. The unit cost for this tough monster was under $20 million each while the Lancer was over $200 million.
Around the grounds are a number of other planes, such as the B-52, mentioned earlier, ECN-135N Stratotanker, F-106 Delta Dart, C-130E Hercules helicopter, and a number of other trainers, cargo, fighter and spy planes that any fan of aircraft would recognize.
Inside the buildings or “hangars” are additional exhibits of mostly smaller aircraft. One such building, the Century of Flight hangar, is home to the SR-71 Blackbird. This rare and storied reconnaissance plane holds the record for the fastest air-breathing conventional jet aircraft ever built. Capable of flying at 3 times the speed of sound, it could get in an over a reconnaissance target and be gone before coming under attack by defending fighters.
Also in the hangar are several other historic and interesting aircraft. One is a replica of the Epps Flyer hanging from the ceiling near the second floor entrance to the hall. The contrast between this plane and the more modern ones inside the hall is stark. A technological marvel in its day, the Wright Flyer looks more like a child’s balsa wood toy than one of the highly technological computer controlled aircraft of today.
In Hangar 3, you’ll find more planes as well as a couple of must-see exhibits. Among these is the Tuskegee Airmen display, which has scenes depicting the training as well as flight operation of the air group.
The other must-see exhibit is the paratrooper exhibit. Inside is a peeled-back shell of the tiny aircraft used to drop troopers deep behind enemy lines. There are loads of information about the hardships, tough training, and impossible missions faced by the paratroopers who were a big reason for the success of D-Day, including an account of the Battle of Graignes.
Besides these historical displays and exhibits, the Museum also has a number of educational opportunities for children. One Saturday a month, the Museum of Aviation Education Center offers STEM-based learning opportunities for students from pre-K through 12. Registration is online, and the cost is $35 per child, which includes all of the materials needed for the session. The workshops have different themes each month, and the lessons are developmentally age appropriate. Workshops begin at 9 and end at noon.
On October 28, 2017, students in preK through second grade will get to be Junior Scientists, while students in third through fifth grade will explore Spooky Science. These elementary school students will all be able to do experiments in the Mad Scientist Laboratory.
Students in sixth through twelfth grade will learn Mission Quest + Atmospheric Science in the Mission Quest Flight Simulation Lab. They will have to work together as a crew to plan and fly a mission while learning how weather impacts aircraft and flight schedules.
After dark, families can gather outside for the Starry Night stargazing experience. This event is free, and telescopes will be provided by the museum. Participants will learn about the stars and the solar system.
Being the second largest Air Force aviation museum in the country, it is difficult to describe everything available to see or do, and the facility has enough to offer for multiple trips, even if to just take advantage of the exercise. There are numerous educational options for public, private, and even homeschooling students during the week and on weekends.
The Robins AFB Museum of Aviation is a nice place to visit, but easy to take for granted when you live nearby. Admission is free, although it survives on donations, which are always welcome. Hours of operation are 9 AM to 5 PM every day of the week and it is only closed on 4 holidays every year. The address is 1942 Heritage Blvd, Robins AFB.
For more information about their educational opportunities and other events, please visit their website at museumofaviation.org.
This article was writing in collaboration between Lauren and Doug Deal.