Oakland Aviation Museum Displays Bay Area’s Important Aviation History

Spread your wings and head over to the Oakland Aviation Museum
Oakland Aviation

A military jet on display outside the Oakland Aviation Museum. Photo: Janet Fazio

Whether you find yourself with some free time either before or after a flight, or if its a destination all its own, the Oakland Aviation Museum is a fun place for flying enthusiasts. Housed in a former hangar at Old North Field and once home to the Boeing School of Aeronautics, guests of the museum will garner an appreciation for the importance aviation played in Oakland and well beyond during self-guided tours of the museum.

Kids of all ages will enjoy the interactive play area out front, complete with two replica airplanes and a control tower. Inside, the history of the Oakland Airport, including its dedication by Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh in September 1927, as well as other significant milestones in aviation history are well documented. With a 7,020-foot runway, the longest in the world for its day, the then Oakland Municipal Airport was the starting point for the Dole Races to Hawaii, an extremely dangerous journey which in 1927 took more than 25 hours.

As you move about the museum, you’ll learn just how much of American aviation history is rooted in the military. Step back in time to learn about the service of General James Doolittle, an Alameda native who was one of the pioneers of instrument flying and advanced aviation technology. See model planes used in different wars and read about missions that left from Oakland and Alameda.

The museum also features exhibits dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen, African-American military pilots who fought in World War II, the Powder Puff Derbies and the women who raced in them, and Amelia Earhart, whose many journeys started from Oakland’s Municipal Airport.

A video documenting the complicated story of World Airlines, from providing low cost charters to its service as a military contractor, is well worth the watch.

In addition to the dozens of airplanes on display, flight simulators are open on “Open Cockpits Days”, during which guests can sit in a Korean War MiG-15 and get a glimpse of the training involved for Naval Flight Officers in the 1970s in a Navy A-6 simulator trailer.  Open Cockpit Days are also a chance to tour the Solent Flying Boat from the movie Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. During its heyday in the late 1940s, the Solent would fly passengers from Southampton, England, to Johannesburg, South Africa. Only two of these flying boats remain.

If you go: Find the Oakland Aviation Museum at 8252 Earhart Drive in Oakland. Open 10am to 4pm, Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are sold up to 3:15pm. Admission is $5 to $10 and free for children 5 and under. Check the website for Open Cockpit Days and other events. Food vendors are on site during Open Cockpit Days. Otherwise, no food or drinks are available. Bring a sweater or a light jacket. The museum is housed in a former airplane hangar and can be chilly. Group tours for 12 or more are available when booked in advance. For more information, visit oaklandaviationmuseum.org or call 510.638.7100.