Houston’s Lone Star Flight Museum is the perfect place to visit for aviation geeks. Starting as a private collection in 1985, it quickly grew and soon needed a hanger in Galveston. Along with memorabilia and an educational program, the museum began to take shape. The Lone Star Flight Museum was relocated to Ellington Air Field (just south of Houston) in 2015 and is regarded as one of the top aviation museums in the nation.
The Texas Aviation Hall of Fame
Established in 1995 by the Texas Legislature, the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame showcases and honors Texans who have in some way contributed significantly to aviation. There are four categories in the Hall of Fame. Trailblazers and Explorers honor those that came first or pushed the envelope in aviation. People like Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license, and Wiley Post, the first to fly solo worldwide, are in this category. Military Aviators such as the Tuskegee Airmen (32 Texan members), and Claire Chenault, a native Texan who was the famed WW2 Flying Tigers leader, are, too.
Innovators and Entrepreneurs have among its inductees Howard Hughes and Dr. Red Duke. Hughes set a record for around the world flight and was the founder of TWA Airlines. Duke, a Houston trauma doctor, founded the air ambulance Life Flight in 1976. The fourth category is Leaders. Here, you’ll find General and President Dwight Eisenhower, who signed legislation that created NASA, and President George H.W. Bush, the youngest aviator in WWII.
There is a permanent display of the part Texas and Texans played in aviation history.
In addition to the permanent exhibit and Hall of Fame, the museum also has a rotating display. Exhibits have included Fly Girls of WWII, which tells the story of those women who served as WASPs— Women Air Force Service Pilots.
Lone Star Flight Museum has a flight academy for kids that teaches flight basic scientific principles through hands-on exhibits. Flight simulators and replica cockpits are all part of the experience. There is also a flight hanger where students perform a safety inspection on a plane, create a flight plan, plot a course, and calculate fuel needs.
The museum also assists Boy Scouts getting their aviation merit badge by hosting overnight stays that include badge requirements. Pre-flight inspections and simulators, instruction on the fundamentals of flight, and other activities fit this qualification. The museum hosts a lot of group trips for schools and other groups, as well.
Of course, the main attraction at the Lone Star Flight Museum is the two hangers that hold the planes. Two indoor hangers display historic planes along with backgrounds and their connections to Texas.
There is a 1940 Continental Airlines Douglas DC-3 that saw service with a couple of different airlines before being purchased by Continental. Donated by Gordon Bethune (CEO of Continental), the DC-3 invokes images of when air travel was elegant.
You can see the Exxon Flying Tiger, piloted by aviation legend Bruce Bohannon. This one-of-a-kind plane built from scratch set 30 world records from 1999 to 2005. The Exxon Flying Tiger was built for setting time to climb records. It was the first home-built airplane to cruise at over 40,000 ft, and in 2006, reached an altitude of 47,530 ft.
Several WWII Plane Displays
A North American B-25 Mitchell, named after General Billy Mitchell, was selected by then Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle as the plane he would use to bomb Tokyo in WWII. The first air operation over Japanese airspace, saw Doolittle and his Raiders take off in B-25s from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.
The B-25 Mitchell stayed stateside during WWII and was used by the CIA during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The museum purchased the aircraft and painted it in the Doolittle Raiders colors. It is the official plane of the Doolittle Raiders Association.
There are other warplanes of the past on display as well. The Douglas SBD 5 Dauntless, with two forward-firing .50 cal guns and a rear gunner with twin .30 cal guns, made its most significant impact during the Battle of Midway in WWII.
There is a Chance Vought Corsair, faster and more nimble than the Japanese Zero, used primarily by the Marine Corp in WWII. During the Korean War, it was one of the few WWII-era planes that saw action because it could carry more ammunition and bombs than the jet aircraft of the day.
The Lone Star Flight Museum has visiting aircraft, so you never know what you might find. Visiting aircraft that are temporarily on loan or sometimes museums in northern states will bring their aircraft here during the winter months. You might see a Russian-built MIG fighter, a British Spitfire or Hawker Hurricane, or just about anything when you visit.
The museum also has some NASA displays on hand, including a space shuttle simulator.
Take to the Skies
One of the biggest attractions at the museum is the Warbird Ride Program. Here, you can take to the skies in one of four aircraft. Arrangements can be made to gift someone (or yourself), a right in a Boeing PT-17 Stearman, Cessna T-41 Mescalero, North American T-6 Texas, or the ultimate, North American B-25 Mitchell. Imagine soaring through the clouds in one of these historic aircraft for only a few hundred dollars.
The Lone Star Flight Museum is a must-visit for aviation geeks, history enthusiast, families, or anyone interested in historic planes.
Location and Times
The Lone Star Flight Museum, Ellington Air Field, is at 11551 Aerospace Avenue, in Houston. It is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am-4 pm, and Sundays, noon -5pm. Admission price varies with discounts for seniors over 65, military, and AAA members. On Thursdays, the price is $5.00 for all visitors.