The March Air Museum is located just off Interstate 215 south of San Bernardino in California. The museum is home to 700 historic aircraft and was constructed in 1993. The building reflects the aircraft hangar of early aviation days. The museum is famed for having an exhibit of the P-59 fighter, the first operational jet in the US air force some 50 years ago. The museum also houses a theatre where visitors can view historical footage of vintage aircraft and military aviation history. I visited this site in order to obtain a better perspective on US military aviation history and learn more about those individuals that made a major contribution to aviation history in the USA. The air force base has historical significance and the aircraft park feature many planes that once flew out of the March Airfield base. (March Airfield Museum).
The museum is conveniently housed near the March Air Reserve Base, home to the 4th Airforce Reserve Command. The base was previously used by the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in the period of the Cold War. March is one of the oldest airfields being operated by the US military. The history dates back to the early 1900’s when it was used for training flights for planes used in the World War 1 theatre of operations. In the 2nd World War, March was one of the major staging areas for bomber squadron that were being deployed to the Pacific region. The Air Force base today houses a number of the most modern freight jets that can be used in order to deploy military equipment to different theatres of operation throughout the world. One of the advantages of attending the museum is that you can see these new aircraft landing and taking off from the March Air Reserve base when reviewing older planes and as such providing a real-time sense of the aviation history. There are many guides at the museum that include a number of veterans that have first-hand experience flying a number of the exhibited planes. Some of these people having experienced combat conditions and as such they have very interesting stories to relate and this adds to the pleasure of the visit and the interesting audio/visual experience of the museum.
The museum houses copies of the two important documents including that of President Wilsons War message to congress in 1917 where the then President stated the severance of diplomatic relations with Germany and four days later Congress passed the resolution that saw the USA entering World War 1 ( the Great War). (Lexington Heath, 1995). The United States Declaration of War 1917 illustrates the reasons for the US entering the war and places into context a number of the early exhibits in the museum; particularly the World War 1 exhibits. (Wilson,W. 1917).
Of the 70 historic aircraft on display there, the exhibit consists of many famous historic planes including that of the record breaking Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird”, the strategic bombers of the cold war and an excellent exhibit of the famous 2nd World War plane the B17 Flying Fortress. These aircraft cannot fail to impress the visitor and the museum has excellent storyboards that inform about important aircraft facts and the aviation history behind the planes. The illustration to the right shows the B17 Flying Fortress exhibit.
Other aircraft on display includes that of:- The B29A Starfighter, B47E Stratojet, F104 Lockheed Starfighter, F4C Phantom, HU16E Grumman, P38L Lockheed Lightning and Y 142 Tomcat Grumman
Perhaps the most awe inspiring exhibit being that of the Minuteman 11 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile currently on loan from the USAF. A stark reminder of the Cold War days and a rather chilling exhibit considering what it represents and perhaps symbolic of the dark side of aviation history. I.e. the concept of total annihilation of the people on the planet.
A Tribute to Brave Aviators
In October 2010 a memorial was commemorated on the site by the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) society in honour of the many brave aviators who distinguished themselves in combat whilst serving their country. This covering the last world war and other combat situations where the USAF has played an active role. The Memorial is a very impressive monument. It is shaped in the form of a pyramid with two aircraft circling above it and it has a nice patio area with chairs in a very quiet and contemplative area of the gardens of the museum.
The museum has ambitious expansion plans including the building of a new hanger that will house a retired space shuttle. Negotiations are already taking place with NASA looking towards the year 2013. “The March Field Air Museum (MFAM) is extremely interested in acquiring an orbiter and intends to provide a new, dedicated, state of the art, first class facility that will display the orbiter in an innovative way, along with a large number of supporting educational displays and exhibits. A formal request was submitted to NASA this past spring along with nineteen other applicants. Two orbiters will be made available to the public by the year 2013.” (March Airfield Museum). In addition, the museum will look towards holding futuristic views of aviation flights and provide an exciting look at the future of flight. The introduction of the IMAX theatre provides the exciting concept of seeing flight in 3-D.