The National Naval Aviation Museum is a must-do when you’re in the Pensacola area. It’s one of the most-visited museums in Florida, and for a good reason! Plus, it’s the world’s largest Naval Aviation museum with almost 350,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space.
As the National Naval Aviation Museum is located on the Naval Air Station Pensacola, it can sometimes be difficult to gain entry. Since December 2019, access to the installation has only been available to DOD ID cardholders and Veterans with a Veteran Health ID Card (VHIC)- so essentially, you need to know someone with a military ID in order to visit the museum. DOD ID cardholders can escort up to 15 guests (in up to 2 vehicles) to tour the museum.
The indoor area of the National Naval Aviation Museum is HUGE, and there’s SO MUCH to see! We’ve visited the museum several times, and I still find something new every time we’re there. We keep coming back since there’s so much to see and do in Pensacola.
The P-40B Tomahawk fighter with the shark mouth belonged to a group called the Flying Tigers – contract pilots paid by the Chinese government to fight the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. The “Yellow Peril” N3N suspended from the ceiling is the airplane that former President George Bush used for naval aviation training in April 1943
One of my favorite things about this museum is how hands-on the exhibits are. Like most kids, mine are wayyyy more engaged when they can listen to the information and interact with it instead of just reading it on a display.
The National Naval Aviation Museum goes above and beyond with displays that the kids (or grown-ups!) in your group can actually be a part of, making it easier to understand and retain the historical information.
I don’t think they would like flying on military aircraft with seats like these – but they’re a fun photo opp!
This SBD-2 Dauntless is one of the most historically significant aircraft in the museum. After surviving Pearl Harbor in 1941, it attacked Japanese shipping in New Guinea (flying from the USS Lexington) and then participated in the Battle of Midway in 1942. With over 200 bullet holes in the fuselage, a wounded gunner, and only one wheel on the landing gear working, this little fighter was still running.
In 1943, this SBD-2 Dauntless dive-bomber was assigned to the Carrier Qualification Training Unit and subsequently crashed into Lake Michigan. In the early 1990s, the museum began recovering aircraft from the bottom of the lake, and after 70,000 hours of work, the SBD Dauntless is on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum.
“This warbird is the most historically significant Navy combat aircraft ever placed on display- the only known survivor of the Battle of Midway (the most important battle in the history of naval aviation) and one of the few naval aircraft anywhere to have seen the face of battle firsthand.” – sign at the National Naval Aviation Museum.
Make sure to catch the short History Channel film about Naval Aviation training in the Great Lakes – even the kids really enjoyed it!
Like me, Nick is a HUGE World War II buff and took the time to read all about the famous WWII aircraft, including the Japanese A6M2 Zero. The one on display was assembled using pieces from a number of wrecked aircraft on Ballele Island.
Pretending to be “presidential” inside Marine One. This VH-3A Sea King helicopter served as Marine One for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Cockpit trainers are plentiful throughout the museum so that you can climb inside and see what it’s like to be a Naval Aviator. While the trainers don’t move and there’s no simulation aspect, you can still move the control stick and flip switches. The cockpit trainers are currently closed for the safety of all visitors. The museum does have motion-based flight simulators available for an additional fee. All flight simulators are temporarily closed.
The four A-4 Skyhawks are flying in the famous diamond formation of the Blue Angels. When they’re actually in the air, the pilots only leave about 36 inches between the airplanes, which is a craaaazy sight to see! The A-4 Skyhawk was the primary Naval Aviation attack plane in Vietnam.
The world-famous Blue Angels are based out of NAS Pensacola, and DOD ID cardholders + their guests can watch them practice seasonally at the National Aviation Museum.
BLUE ANGELS 2021 PRACTICE SCHEDULE
April | 6 ∙ 7 ∙ 13 ∙ 14 ∙ 20 ∙ 21 ∙ 27 ∙ 28
May | 4 ∙ 5 ∙ 11 ∙ 12 ∙ 18 ∙19
(Check here for scheduling updates) Access to the flight line behind the museum opens at 930am and the Blue Angels are scheduled to take to the skies at 1030am for a 55-minute show. Masking and social-distancing requirements are in effect on the flight line.
The spectacular aerial feats of the Blue Angels are definitely a must-see if you’re going to be in the Pensacola area in the summer months. The outside viewing area is on the Museum Flight Line just north of the National Naval Aviation Museum and has plenty of parking, open bleacher seating for 1000, and concessions and merchandise are available.
Have you seen the Blue Angels in the skies over Pensacola?? Or at an air show somewhere else??
Tips for Visiting the National Naval Aviation Museum
- The National Naval Aviation Museum is FREE to visit!
- You need to be either a DOD ID cardholder or a guest of one to get onto NAS Pensacola, where the museum is located. MASKS ARE REQUIRED
- The National Naval Aviation Museum is currently open from 10am-4pm Tuesday – Sunday.
- Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
- Cockpit trainers and flight simulators are currently closed.
- Guided tours and Flight Line Trolley tours have also been temporarily suspended.
- The Giant Screen Theater ($7) has movies starting at 1030am – the last movie showing is at 330pm
- The Magic of Flight (40 minutes) | 1030am ∙ 1pm
- Apollo 11: The First Steps Edition (48 minutes) | 12pm ∙ 230pm
- Aircraft Carrier (25 minutes) | 1130am ∙ 2pm∙ 330pm