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Argyle Chair
Charles Rennie Macintosh

Flying High with the Air Mobility Command
Bob Brooke


Nestled in central Delaware on the grounds of Dover Air Force Base is a fascinating museum dedicated to the Air Mobility Command. The Command's mission is to provide rapid, global mobility and sustainability for America's armed forces. The command also plays a crucial role in providing humanitarian support at home and around the world through airlifts in times of need.

But a visit gives visitors a somewhat hands-on experience. Visitors can climb aboard planes ranging from World War II propeller aircraft to current four-engine jet transports. Try out the flight simulators, enjoy free guided tours and much more at the Air Mobility Command Museum.

Established in 1986 in historic Hangar 1301, a World War II-era site for the top-secret development of rocket weaponry, the facility is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It contains the largest and most complete collection of fully restored U.S. military cargo and tanker aircraft in the Eastern United States. The museum’s mission is to collect, preserve and exhibit the artifacts and human stories that deal with the development and employment of military airlift and air refueling in the US Air Force, as well as to illustrate the history of Dover Air Force Base.

Originally built as a civilian airport modified for military use in response to the outbreak of hostilities in Europe and Asia between 1939 and 1940, Dover Municipal Airfield, leased by the War Department, became a base for anti-submarine operations, fighter pilot training, and aerial rocket testing and development for the length of the World War II.

In September 1946, Dover Army Airfield became inactive. Following the creation of the U.S. Air Force, the Airfield became Dover Air Force Base on January 13, 1948. But it didn’t gain permanent status until December 22, 1953.

During this time, the Air Force was involved in the Vietnam War, Cold War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, as well as humanitarian efforts including Operation Provide Comfort and the relief of former USSR satellite nations following its dissolution. Many of the aircraft in the museum's collection originated at this time.

Inside the Hangar
The concept for the museum evolved from the Air Force Reserve restoration of the B-17G bomber "Shoo Shoo Baby" in 1978. This aircraft became the first of many to be restored for display at the museum. One of the most charismatic planes in the collection is the B-17, America’s most famous heavy bomber during WWII. Over 12,000 were produced for combat. The B-17G Flying Fortress completed a long-term refurbishment. One of the most well known bombers of all time, the B-17 Flying Fortress became famous for the long daylight bombing raids over German industrial targets in WWII.

The beautifully restored B-17 sits proudly next to a combat veteran C-47, and Air Force Two, the official plane of many U.S. Vice Presidents. But it took until 1986 for the museum, itself, to be launched.

At the same time, the C-47A Skytrain, nicknamed “Gooney Bird,” was adapted from the DC-3 commercial airliner which first appeared in 1936. It carried personnel and cargo, and in a combat role, towed troop-carrying gliders and dropped paratroops into enemy territory. Other museums rejected it as "beyond salvage." It took part in troop transport during Operation Neptune for D-Day and then ferried supplies in the Berlin Airlift after the war.

During the Korean War, the C-47A hauled supplies, dropped paratroops, evacuated wounded, and dropped flares for night-bombing attacks. In Vietnam, the C-47 served again as a transport but it was also used for a variety of other missions which included flying ground attack, reconnaissance, and psychological warfare missions.

The U.S. Air Force officially recognized the Dover Air Force Base Historical Center in 1995 which had been moved from three hangars in the main area of the base to its present location in Hangar 1301 in June 1996. In February 1997, the Air Force changed the Center’s name to the Air Mobility Command Museum in February 1997. The Museum encompasses over 20,000 square feet of display space, including an aircraft exhibit gallery plus 1,300 square feet of exhibit rooms. The surrounding 100,000 square feet of outdoor tarmac allows visitors to inspect the remaining aircraft in the collection.

Inside the hangar, visitors can view a variety of exhibits illustrating some of the many operations conducted by the Air Mobility Command. The CG-4A glider was restored using original blueprints. The right wing wasn’t installed due to its considerable length. The left wing was restored to half of its original length. The skin on the left side of the fuselage and parts of the wing structure were left exposed so you can see the intricate woodwork that went into creating the CG-4A glider.

Another of the many exhibits is the USAF Huskie Rescue Helicopter which was assigned to Dover Air Force Base from 1959 to 1962. As part of this exhibit is a display illustrating the transport of wounded soldiers.

Suspended overhead is the BT-13 Valiant, nicknamed the “Vibrator,” a colorful bi-plane trainer used by the U.S.Army Air Force during World War II. It represented the second of the three stages of pilot training—primary, basic and advanced. Compared with the primary trainers in use at the time, it was considerably more complex. The BT-13 not only had a more powerful engine, it was also faster and heavier. In addition, it required the student pilot to use two-way radio communications with the ground, operate landing flaps and a two-position variable pitch propeller.

Some Super Aircraft to Explore Out on the Tarmac
As visitors step through the door from the hangar, they step onto the tarmac where a variety of aircraft wait their exploration. Some of the aircraft are so huge it’s seems almost impossible for them to get off the ground. More than 30 aircraft ranging from an open cockpit bi-plane to huge modern four-engine jet transports stand ready, many open to interior visits.

Among all the planes displayed on the tarmac, the C-141A Starlifter is the most impressive. It was the first ever of its type built and had its maiden flight on December 17, 1963, the 60th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight.

This C-141A Starlifter spent its entire career as a test aircraft in numerous programs. It’s one of only two remaining “A” models and is the only known four engine jet used to tow a glider. The last program this A model carried out, known as Eclipse, was to test a new tension rope from NASA while towing a QF-106 in air.

From the 1970s to the 2000s, the Starlifter was the workhorse of the Air Mobility Command. It took care of a varietyy of airlift operations through its ability to airlift troops over long distances, delivering them and their equipment either by air, land or airdrop, as well as resupplying forces and transporting the sick and wounded from the hostile area to advanced medical facilities.

Open Wednesday through Sunday - 9 A.M. to 4 P.M.
Admission and parking are free

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