Did you know we have one of America’s premier air museums right here in Mesa? The Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum is located in a large hangar at Falcon Field, just off the 202 at Greenfield and Mckellips. This amazing establishment is a working aircraft restoration and repair facility, and is home to an incredible fleet of restored military aircraft.
The volunteers here consist of retired military pilots, airmen and flight enthusiasts, and they maintain and fly a growing collection of aircraft from yesteryear: The B-25J Maid in the Shade, a SNJ, C-47 Skytrain/Dakota, C-45 Expeditor, PT-17 Stearman, and an L-16 Grasshopper. The flagship of the fleet is the fully restored and completely airworthy B-17G Sentimental Journey. There are few things more awe inspiring than seeing, hearing and feeling this warbird rumbling over your head at low altitude! The fleet is often seen doing flyovers at local events, or in formation over military funerals–a sight to behold.
When you enter the museum, you will see an ever-changing display of military memorabilia, such as uniforms, medals, weaponry and the occasional Jeep or cannon. You can also see firsthand project planes that are in various stages of restoration or maintenance. The real treat, however is going out to the tarmac and visiting with the warbirds themselves. Museum docents are available to share stories of their experiences in battle and guide you through the restoration process. Occasionally a WWII vet will even stop by to share his experience! You are free to wander; often times the planes are open for you to take a peek, or even climb aboard! Being inside illustrates the hardships and dangers airmen endured daily in battle.
Are you ready to step the visit up a notch? There are rides available in seven WWII era planes, including Sentimental Journey. All money from ticket purchases go towards restorations and the considerable expense of fuel. The museum is an educational non-profit 501(c)(3) organization run almost entirely by volunteers; all donations are welcome! Be aware that some of the planes leave in the summer to join in the nationwide Flying Legends of Victory Tour. Flying aboard one of these beauties can be the thrill of a lifetime!
Quoted from the website: “For the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans, our fleet of historic aircraft recreate, remind, and reinforce the lessons learned from the defining moments in American military aviation history.” As we lose more and more members of our Greatest Generation, it is important to keep their history alive, and the Commemorative Air Force is leading the way. Please join them!