The skies over Hawaii have seen every type of aircraft. Some have landed in a museum specially designed to tell their story.
The Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor preserves the planes and places them in historical context, displayed in settings that include informational signs. Hangar 37 houses the exhibits. Next door, Hangar 79 shows the planes in the restoration process. Both hangars survived the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941.
The museum is on Ford Island, part of the Pearl Harbor complex. A shuttle bus takes you from the Pearl Harbor visitor’s center to the hangars. Hangar 37 is a comfortable stop, whether you take the self-guided tour or the aviator’s tour. The displays are grouped close enough together that there isn’t a lot of walking between them. Although you are not supposed to climb on the planes, you can get right next to them. There are places to sit, if you grow tired or need to wait for someone in your party to catch up.
The displays are aimed at a general audience. They are interesting to adults but would also be understandable by children. An introductory video gives enough background for anyone to enjoy the displays, regardless of their background. A flight simulator allows you to play pilot (for an additional fee) and several people were having a good time with it when we passed through. This is a stop guaranteed to interest anyone who has a background in aviation or a love of history.
Hangar 37 includes a restaurant that serves sandwiches, salads, and entrees along with wine and beer. We arrived after the kitchen closed for the day (at 3 pm) and had eaten a hot dog at the Pearl Harbor visitor’s center. I was a little sad, because the restaurant looked fun – kind of a 1940’s officer’s canteen vibe. I hope to return when it is open to rest my feet with a snack.
The museum store included a display of Amelia Earhart books when we visited because the photo exhibit was just opening. There are all sorts of aviation gifts, books and memorabilia. It is at the front entrance, so it is easy to browse while waiting for the shuttle bus back.
Know before you go
The museum recommends allowing 1 1/2 – 2 hours for a visit. If you are also visiting other Pearl Harbor locations, that makes it a pretty full day. Pace yourself and allow time to rest, or visit the aviation museum on a trip when you are not also taking in the Arizona Memorial, Mighty Mo or the USS Bowfin.
Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for children. The Aviator’s Tour is $10 (although right now it is half price if you book online in advance). The simulator flight is $10.
The museum is open 9-5 daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
No bags are allowed on the shuttle bus at Pearl Harbor. There is bag storage available in the Visitor Center.The Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor provided free admission to the museum for me and a guest in connection with the opening of the Amelia Earhart photographic exhibit.