The Southern Museum of Flight is one of the best kept secrets in Alabama, and if you are a fan of aviation, it is a must-see day trip.
It is one of the largest museums covering aviation in the entire Southeast, and it has a rich history.
Located near the Birmingham Airport, there are several signs that will point you in the right direction.
The actual address is 4343 73rd Street, Birmingham Alabama.
Home to over 100 aircraft, the Southern Museum of Flight has quite an interesting history.
It began in the early 1960’s, when one of the early Alabama aviators, Mary Alice Beatty, started a collection that would later turn into this historic museum.
She collected several aviation related artifacts as well as memorabilia, as she along with her husband Donald, were aviation pioneers.
They helped in establishing the first of both airline routes as well as basses in Central, as well as South America.
The centennial celebration of the City of Birmingham was approaching during this time frame, and a civic committee had been set up by the city.
They were working on several projects that would tell the story of the first hundred years of Birmingham.
The Beatty’s believed that the history of aviation in this area should be included in this project.
Because of this, the museum was started, and in 1965 the Birmingham Air and Space Museum was established.
It was set up in the library at Samford University, where it was later moved to the terminal at the Birmingham Airport in the year 1967.
Two years after this move, it was renamed to its current name, the Southern Museum of Flight.
That site would again change about 10 years later, as in 1976, the Aero Club of Birmingham bought land near the airport.
The sole purpose of this purchase was to finally build a real facility for the museum, and construction on this new facility began in 1978.
The original plans called for four different wings or display areas, and two of those four wings were opened in 1983.
Today the exhibit halls are referred to as “hangers’, and the museum also has an Aviation Hall of Fame exclusively for aviators from Alabama.
It also features an exhibit called the Flying Heritage Gallery, as well as a gallery specifically for models.
It also has a “hands-on gallery”, which is designed specifically for families to enjoy.
The Southern Museum of Flight features close to 100 different aircraft, as well as several other attractions.
These include several different models, numerous engines, paintings, photographs, as well as numerous artifacts.
The Southern Museum of Flight entire purpose is to present all types of aviation aircraft, and this includes not only military aircraft, but civilian as well as experimental.
This 75,000 square foot aviation facility features several exhibits, including the following.
The Korean War Jet Exhibit
The first of the Southern Museum of Flight exhibits is the Korean War Jet exhibit, which features a very unique diorama display.
This unique display highlights a replica of the Kimpo Air Force base in South Korea, which was utilized by American troops during the Korean War.
It highlights the defection of an elite North Korean Air Force pilot, as well as the historic events that followed this defection.
It also features two of the main fighter jets that became bitter combat adversaries, the F-86 Sabre, and the Russian Mig-13 that was used by the Koreans.
The Tuskegee Airman Exhibit
The next exhibit at the Southern Museum of Flight honors the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the Tuskegee Airmen Exhibit.
This features the historic “experiment” that became one of the best stories to come out of World War II.
It highlights this extraordinary group of men that contributed so much and were the first African Americans in the history of the military to fly.
This exhibit includes a North American AT-6 Texan, a Vultee BT-13B Valiant, as well as a Fairchild PT-19 Cornell.
The Lake Murray B-25 Exhibit
The next exhibit at the Southern Museum of Flight is the Lake Murray B-25 Exhibit, which features the B-25 that was recovered from a lake.
It was recovered from the depths of Lake Murray, South Carolina, in the year 2005, after being there for 62 years.
This lake in South Carolina was known as “Bomb Island”, as it was where the United States Air Force conducted training missions during World War II.
The Vietnam War Helicopter Exhibit
The Vietnam War Helicopter Exhibit displays the heroic deeds of Troop C of the 16th Cavalry Regiment.
It signifies the bravery of all the U.S. Military that sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War.
The Huff-Daland Crop Duster Exhibit
The last of the major exhibits at the Southern Museum of Flight is the Huff-Daland Crop Duster Exhibit, which actually features an original Huff-Daland Duster plane.
This plane was a fabric-covered cantilever-winged biplane, which was specifically designed.
It was designed so none of the wing braces that were common in this type of aircraft were used in this design.
The display background highlights the Monroe-Louisiana area during the 1920’s, when the Huff-Daland was used by the Delta Air Corporation as crop dusting planes.
The museum also celebrates the earliest aviation history, as it features the short-lived Wrights Brothers Flying School.
This flying school was located in what is now known as Maxwell Airfield, in the town of Montgomery Alabama.
It features a full replica of the plane they used, the Wright Flyer, which is hung above a large photograph of the original plane.
The Southern Museum of Flight also has several other aircraft on display, making it one of the best kept secrets in Alabama.
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