Visiting the Museum - Hangar 37
The visitors' experience begins in Hangar 37, a 42,000 square foot former seaplane hangar that survived the December 7, 1941 attack. Transportation to Ford Island is via shuttle buses. After arrival in the Pacific Aviation Museums' lobby, guests enter a 200-seat theater where they view a 12 minute movie covering the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, including historic footage.
Leaving the theater visitors enter a corridor that sets the stage with sound effects and photos of what life was like in the Islands before 1941. Upon entering the exhibit area of 25,000 square feet, visitors first see an authentic Japanese Zero in a diorama setting on the deck of the Japanese carrier Hiryu at dawn on December 7th. Also in the hangar is a light civilian plane that was airborne and shot during the Oahu attack, together with a P-40 fighter of the type airborne from Wheeler and Haleiwa Field on the fateful day. Visitors will then be enthralled with an exhibit relating a story, both before and after, of one of the Japanese Zeros that crash landed on the island of Niʻihau.
The year 1942 was one of “desperate courage.” Exhibits include an actual B-25B Mitchell similar to one used in the Doolittle Raid on Japan in April,1942. An SBD Dauntless dive bomber is the centerpiece in our retelling of the Battle of Midway. An authentic F4F Wildcat is featured in the Guadalcanal diorama as the story of the “Cactus Air Force” is told. Finally, the story of America's mobilization for war – manufacturing airplanes and training pilots in particular – is told using the actual Stearman N2S-3 in which former President George H.W.Bush soloed.
Visitors then have the opportunity to become a WWII pilot in one of the museum's interactive Combat Flight Simulators. Fly planes off a runway take off and land on an aircraft carrier and dog fight with the enemy. Enjoy a delicious meal in the museum's restaurant, the Laniākea Cafe. The Museum Store features “everything to do with aviation” and Pearl Harbor.
New to the museum is the Mig Alley Korean War Exhibit. Showcasing the Museum’s recently acquired MiG-15 and newly restored F-86 Sabre aircraft which flew during the Korean War, the exhibit features a life-sized diorama that depicts “MiG Alley,” the name given by U.S. Air Force pilots to the northwestern portion of North Korea. During the Korean War, it was the site of numerous dogfights between U.S. fighter jets and those of the Communist forces, particularly the Soviet Union. The Museum’s F-86 Sabre which has been restored for the exhibit, and the Museum’s Soviet-designed MiG-15 were the aircraft used throughout most of the Korean conflict.
Preserving a National Treasure
Ford Island, now a National Historic Landmark, is quiet today but it still shows the scars of war. In developing the master plan in the 1990s, the Navy consulted with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Hawaii Foundation. The Navy agreed to protect several historic buildings and nearby grounds. However, preserving these artifacts is outside the Navy's primary mission, so an innovative method for adaptive reuse and preservation was required. Perhaps serendipitously, a group of concerned Hawaii citizens stepped forward with a solution and a plan to create a world class aviation museum in the historic hangars that survived the attack that initiated the US effort in World War II.