Wings, Women, and Warriors at the Air Zoo

Planes and more planes at the Air Zoo Museum - Wings, Women, and Warriors

Driving along I-94 from Detroit to Chicago we kept seeing billboards advertising Air Zoo with intriguing pictures that made us curious. Both Kayla and I have never heard of the Air Zoo before. After googling “Air Zoo,” we were surprised at how awesome this place looked. Airplanes, amusement park rides, science, and history all packed together into one fantastic venue in Portage, Michigan. The Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Experience has over 50 types of aircraft that you can stand next to and underneath and marvel at the enormity of these giants. Come and spend a day learning all about Wings, Women, and Warriors at the Air Zoo.

Wings, Women, and Warriors at the Air Zoo

The building looks very dull on the outside but, once you walk through the doors, you are greeted with a couple of colorful planes right in the lobby. And it only gets better once you walk through the clouds to enter the Main Exhibit floor. There is so much to see here!

On the left are the amusement park rides for the younger kids The layout of the museum is interesting and set up on aviation history timeline. The earlier simple years of flight are on the left, and as you move from left to right (clockwise), the airplanes become more complicated. The Full-Motion flight simulators are in the modern section of the main floor. There was a line of people waiting so; you might want to head to that section first and get them out of the way.Planes, Cars, and Balloons at the Air Zoo Museum1928 Curtiss Robin at the Air Zoo MuseumBig Planes at the Air Zoo MuseumP-39Q Airacobra plane at the Air Zoo MuseumAir Zoo Museum Main Exhibit Floor

Lockheed SR-71B Blackbird

Lockheed SR-71B Blackbird at the Air Zoo MuseumThe highlight is the SR-71B Blackbird which dominates one whole section of the main floor. This aircraft is the only Blackbird of its kind left in the world and is on loan from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. It is almost entirely made of titanium alloy. The SR-71B Blackbird was a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane during the Cold War. This lady is so fast the top speed is Classified, but it could go up to Mach 3+ (over 2,000 mph). Fast!

Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)

Women Airforce Service Pilots in World War II - Wings, Women, and WarriorsIn the back of the Main Exhibit Floor behind the Blackbird is a doorway that leads to an exhibit focusing on some amazing women. During World War II, there was a shortage of combat pilots, and one woman had a solution for that problem. Jacqueline Cochran convinced the Commanding General of the Army Air Force that with the same training as men, women could also fly military aircraft. 1,102 women graduated and became Air Force pilots.

These women flew over 60 million miles in any aircraft or mission the men flew, except combat. Their safety flying record exceeded the males. Disbanded On December 20, 1944, with no honors, no benefits, and no thanks or recognition from the U.S. Air Force. In 1977, Congress finally granted them the Veteran Status they had earned. This exhibit moved me to tears. And for those that know me, that is easy to do. But, it is an incredible part of history that was lost for 33 years.

“Let us pay tribute to these women by honoring their memory.”

Women Air Force Pilots in World War II exhibit at the Air Zoo Museum

Space: Dare to Dream Exhibit

After you finish going through the Main Exhibit Floor, you head to the East Wing. You can learn all about Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Wernher Von Braun (who designed the Saturn V Rocket). This exhibit has tons of displays on rockets and rocket engines and the science behind the creation of them. But, the highlight of the Space exhibit is…J-2 Rocket test engine for the Saturn V rocket at the Air Zoo Museum

Star Wars

A whole exhibit with Kenner Star Wars action figures from the original Star Wars movie trilogy. There are cases with each of the three original movies figurines still in their boxes. What a treasure trove of Star Wars history and a blast from the past! Who had some of these?Oiriginal Kenner Star Wars action figures at the Air Zoo MuseumPrincess Lei Star Wars action figure at the Air Zoo MuseumThe rest of the Main Campus East Wing was filled with more aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen and the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame. It is a wonderful experience to be this close to the plane, and the museum has quite a few hands-on experiences. Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame in the East Wing of the Air Zoo

But, wait there is more!

After you have seen the entire Main Campus, there is a separate building further back that has even more aircraft and hands-on experiences. Don’t skip this building! The East Campus is where it houses one of the nation’s premier Military Aircraft Restoration centers. I was surprised with how busy the Main Campus is that the East Campus was empty. What a miss for everyone! We were able to sit in cockpits and helicopters with no lines. Kayla siting in a fighter jet cockpit at the Air Zoo Museum Sikorsky S-65 Super Stallion Navy Helicopter at the Air Zoo East CampusA Variety of Aircraft at the Air Zoo East Campus

Douglass SBD Dauntless

The Douglass SBD Dauntless bomber was lost in Lake Michigan but, has since been recovered and now sits in pieces at the Air Zoo Restoration Center. The Dauntless is credited with helping win the Battle of Midway in the Pacific and helping to turn the tide against Japan. So, why was it in Lake Michigan? Apparently, the military was conducting secret training missions in Michigan during the war. The things you learn about history in your state.

You can stand and watch workers restore this aircraft to its former glory one bit at a time. The whole process will probably take 3-5 years and is done entirely by Air Zoo volunteers. How cool a job would this be!Douglass SBD Dauntless World War II bomber restoration project at the Air ZooAs you can see, there is a tremendous amount of history preserved throughout the Air Zoo. And if you are even slightly interested in airplanes/aviation/military, you need to check this museum out. The AirZoo also sponsors Homeschool Discovery Days on the first Tuesdays of the month. If you are interested in learning more about the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Experience, check out their website.

Highly recommended to spend a day or even stop on your way home, which is what Kayla and I did. There is so much to learn about Wings, Women, and Warriors at the Air Zoo that visiting will peak your interest to learn even more afterward.

2 Comments

  • Terri Mucc 3April2018 at 12:31 PM Reply

    Great information! Yes… I know this place well and love going there! You can purchase the family yearly membership and take your family often. It is quite inexpensive and after you go twice you have already paid for the membership!! Great value for a little money!

    • Heather 3April2018 at 9:52 PM Reply

      Wow! Thanks for the info, Terri. I’ll have to keep that in mind. It isn’t that far from Detroit.

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