Hawaii Mom Blog: Pacific Aviation Museum




April 15, 2013

Pacific Aviation Museum

Click on all photos to enlarge. Disclosure: Our family was provided complimentary tickets. 

Are you an aviation enthusiast?  Perhaps you're a history buff.  Maybe you have a relative that experienced the horrifying events of December 7, 1941, or maybe you simply want to visit a popular tourist attraction in Hawaii.

If any of the above applies to you, a visit to the Pacific Aviation Museum is a must.

Recently having celebrated their one-millionth visitor on April 4, Pacific Aviation Museum allows visitors a chance to view some intriguing aviation exhibits, learn about Pacific aviation history, and so much more.

Highlights of Our Visit:
Our family visited Pacific Aviation Museum on a recent Saturday.

The museum consists of two hangars - Hangar 37 and Hangar 79.

We started off our visit in Hangar 37, where we initially saw some exhibits paying tribute to Pan American World Airways, and once we got onto the main museum floor, we were in awe of all of the planes.

We saw a variety of different aircraft, such as the Boeing N2S-3 Stearman, Aeronca Model 65TC, and the Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 Type 0.

Other noteworthy items we saw included the Niihau Zero - actual pieces of wreckage from a Type 0 that crashed on Niihau on December 7, 1941, the Weapons Wall, featuring full-size models of weapons used in the attack on Pearl Harbor (the size of the weapons gave me "chicken skin"), and photos of Amelia Earhart in Hawaii.

As we made our way to Hangar 79, we saw the historic Ford Island Control Tower (currently closed to visitor traffic, but if restoration funding is met, tours may be possible in the future).

Once we arrived at Hangar 79 I knew I had to take photos of the glass windows.  Why?  They bear original bullet holes from the December 7, 1941 attack!  Talk about an amazing glimpse of history.

Once inside Hangar 79 we saw even more fascinating aircraft.

The highlights for my boys were the two exhibits they could actually go on.  One was the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King, and the other was the Sikorsky CH-53 D Sea Stallion, which my boys LOVED.  It was enormous, and they enjoyed walking and sitting inside of it.

The Sea Stallion was actually missing a sign to identify what type of aircraft it was, and when I asked the staff what it was, they were so helpful and enthusiastic, telling me what what kind of aircraft it was, and sharing a little history behind it too!

Visiting with a Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):
We visited the Pacific Aviation Museum early in the day, when it wasn't too crowded, which helped to lessen my oldest son's anxiety (he has an ASD).

He welcomed the wide open spaces of the museum, and enjoyed getting as close as possible to the aircraft to "inspect" them.  Unfortunately, he did have a couple of meltdowns at the museum, primarily because it was a new and unfamiliar place, but what helped was discovering something he loved - which was the Sea Stallion.

He loved going on the Sea Stallion, and would repeatedly do so.  It calmed him, and if he started to become anxious while we toured the hangar, we'd simply tell him he could go back to the Sea Stallion later.

There were a few places to sit throughout both hangars in case we needed to take a break, (benches, chairs, the cafe, etc.), but fortunately his meltdowns were minor and he was usually able to self-calm right away.

I know every child is different, but social stories always helps my son, and families with a child with an ASD may want to consider creating social stories prior to visiting.  The Pacific Aviation Museum's website is very detailed, and it's easy to create a social stories booklet with photos and information for kids with an ASD to help ease any anxieties they may experience during a visit.

Final Thoughts:
The Pacific Aviation Museum is small in terms of number of exhibits, but what they lack in size, they more than make up for with invaluable photos, videos, aircraft, and more.  They are constantly growing, and they recently welcomed the arrival of the Swamp Ghost, which you can read about in this press release.

Some may think admission is pricey, but I look at it as a way of helping the museum restore and preserve so many priceless pieces of history.

I thought it was really neat to get an up-close look at so many different types of aircraft, and I loved reading the stories behind them.

From a kid's point of view, it would have been nice to be able to interact with more of the aircraft, or be able to step inside more of them, like on the Sea Stallion, but I do know that preservation of the aircraft is important.  However, perhaps there could be different types of interactive exhibits in the future to engage kids more.

I look forward to taking my kids again when they are older - when they'll be able to better appreciate the history behind the various aircraft and the events of December 7, 1941 (as show in a short movie in the theater), and when they're all old enough to try the combat simulator!

Below are more photos from our visit. Enjoy!
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Pacific Aviation Museum: Ford Island, 319 Lexington Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96818, (808) 441-1000

General: $20 Adult; $10 Child (ages 4-12) / Kama`aina & Military:  $12 Adult; $7 Child (ages 4-12)
Click here for more ticketing/tour options

Free at Pearl Harbor Visitors Center; shuttle to/from Ford Island runs every 10-15 minutes.  For those with military or DOD ID, free parking available at museum lot on Ford Island.

Wear clothes with plenty of pockets to carry your wallet, camera, phone, sunscreen, etc., since no bags (purses, diaper bags, backpacks, etc.) are allowed on shuttle bus to Ford Island.

Be prepared to spend 1-2 hours at the museum.  The theater show is approximately 12 minutes; the simulator ride is approximately 30 minutes.

Simulator flights are $10 (must be age 7 and up), but you can click here for a coupon good for a free simulator flight valid with your paid admission; expires 12/31/13. 

On site: 
Museum Store
Laniakea Cafe  

Open daily 9am-5pm excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day

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