National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola Reopens

The world’s largest aviation museum is located on the grounds of the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. In May 2023, the National Naval Aviation Museum reopened to the general public after being closed since 2019.

The Museum is home to more than 150 historic aircraft and over 4000 artifacts representing facets of Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aviation. The aircraft are housed in 350,000 feet of inside exhibit space and around the 37-acre grounds.

Exhibits include a replica of the flight deck and island superstructure of the light aircraft carrier USS Cabot.

An F-14 Tomcat occupies a pedestal just outside the Museum. Inside, visitors can see iconic aircraft including four A-4 Skyhawks formerly flown by the US Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the famous Blue Angels. The Blue Angels practice in the area throughout the year and can be viewed from the flight line behind the Museum. On select days the Museum hosts autograph sessions.

Other notable aircraft include the Curtiss NC-4 flying boat which in 1919 made the first aircraft crossing of the Atlantic. Exhibits also feature World War II-era planes including the Messerschmidt ME 262, the world’s first operational jet fighter aircraft. Aerospace exhibits are also on view.Visitors can see the command module from Skylab, a moon rock from Apollo 17, and a replica of the Lunar Excursion Module which carried Apollo astronauts to the surface of the moon.

In addition to viewing exhibits, visitors can check out the cockpit trainers  and two Maxflight simulators capable of air-to-air combat and stunt flying. A variety of IMAX films are shown in the Museum’s theater.

More than 150 iconic aircraft are on display at the Museum.

The Museum also has a number of activities aimed at students. Adjacent to the Museum is the National Flight Academy,  a program of the National Aviation Museum Foundation housed in a four-story simulated aircraft carrier. The Academy is home base for a summer program aimed at students in grades 7—12. Students live aboard the simulated carrier for a six day/five night deployment, an immersive experience including advanced technology, flight simulators and virtual reality missions. Another program,  NAS Starbase Pensacola, is a  Department of Defense youth outreach project which introduces fifth graders to the uses of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in different settings and careers. Flight Adventure Deck, intended for students in grades 6—8, is a STEM-based summer day camp featuring activities including launching rockets and flying an F-35 flight simulator.

Admission to the National Naval Aviation Museum is free, though some exhibits and activities require a fee. For more information check the website at

Photos courtesy Naval Aviation Museum Foundation

Kathie Farnell
Kathie Farnell
Freelance writer Kathie Farnell lives in Foley, Alabama, ten miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, with her husband, photographer Jack Purser, and a flock of cats. She has written travel articles for print and web publications since 1992, and also produces programming for public television and radio through her nonprofit corporation, Artemis Media Project. The couple enjoy exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations and spending time on the Gulf beaches.

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