The museum has 25 indoor and outdoor exhibits that provide a glimpse of aviation in days gone by. Memorabilia and World War II airplanes are placed throughout the museum. Occasional fly-ins provide many youngsters with their first experiences with small aircraft, and a simulator allows visitors to experience flying while safely on the ground.
The museum was created to teach about the history of aviation through the 20th century, and in 2007, it expanded into the North Terminal Building, the former airline terminal. The expansion allowed for additional exhibit space, an enlarged gift shop and library, and the creation of a multimedia theater room. Bill Halbert, a retired Air Force colonel who flew combat in three wars, is one of the former military personnel who leads tours at the museum.
He says the museum reaches more people and teaches more than a classroom lecture or a book could.
“I think for the younger generation, history is so fleeting,” Halbert says. “I think this is something that makes history come alive for them. It puts things in perspective.”
Halbert leads tours and answers questions, but he also tries to deliver an urgent message to those on the tours.
“If one of the youngsters on my tour says his relative flew in a war, I ask that child to go home and hug their grandpa or their great-grandpa and tell them thank you for serving,” Halbert says. “You only get a few chances to do that, and I want them to see that. With World War II veterans dying at the rate of about 1,000 a day, our opportunities are dwindling.”
Read about more museums in the Tyler, TX area.