Northwest Florida Air Bases, Air Flight Museums
Naval Aviation and USAF Aircraft Featured in Gulf Coast Air Museums
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Mar 8, 2009 Pamela Watson
Two military bases in Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach Florida offer history museums that feature vintage aircraft, military weapons and the history of modern air warfare.
Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast has always had a military presence. From the earliest coastal forts built to protect Spanish settlements from naval invasions to the beginnings of the U. S. space program, Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast has been a strategic location for the military on land, sea and air.
Today, four military installations dot the coast from Pensacola to Panama City. Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, home of the 325th Fighter Wing, began as a Flexible Gunnery School in 1940. Today, the 325th Fighter Wing is assigned to the United States Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command. Each year in March or April Tyndall hosts the Gulf Coast Salute Airshow featuring air demonstration squadrons such as the Navy’s Blue Angles and the US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team.
Eglin Air Force Base, the largest in the free world and spanning the two central Northwest Florida counties of Walton and Okaloosa, is home to the 96th Air Base Wing. Eglin serves as the focal point for all Air Force armament, testing and evaluation of armament, navigation, guidance systems, and command and control systems.
Hurlburt Field in Mary Esther is home of the 1st Special Operations Wing and to Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command. Various support groups for these commands are also located here.
Pensacola Naval Air Station is just west of Pensacola and is the home of the Blue Angels, the U. S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron. Known as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation,” Pensacola Naval Air Station serves as the launching point for the flight training of every Naval aviator, flight officer and enlisted air crewman.
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Air Museums are located at Eglin Air Force Base and Pensacola Naval Air Station. Both museums are free and open to the public.
Air Force Armament Museum
The Air Force Armament Museum is located on Highway 85 just outside the west gate at Eglin Air Force Base. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of artifacts and memorabilia associated with Air Force Armament and the airplanes and other launch platforms that deliver it. Outside the building, visitors can view airplanes and missiles from WWII and the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Inside exhibits are devoted to Desert Storm and the history of air armament as well as bombs, missiles and rockets. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM and admission is free. Call (850) 651-1808 for more information.
National Naval Aviation Museum
The National Naval Aviation Museum located on Pensacola Naval Air Station is the world’s largest naval air history museum and features vintage aircraft, interactive exhibits and an IMAX theater. The museum represents the history of flight of the U. S. Navy, Marines and Coast Guard and is also home to the Blue Angles. Museum visitors can watch the team practice from a designated viewing area outside. After practice, the team gathers in the museum to answer questions and sign autographs. The museum is open daily throughout the year from 9 AM to 5 PM and admission is free. Call (850) 452-3604 for more information.
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