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Hiller Aviation Museum — the normal fun part

11 August 2010

Hiller Aviation Museum — the normal fun part*

37° 30’ 45” N / 122° 15’ 15” W

Model of a Martin M-130 China Clipper — photo by Joe May

Model of a the Martin M-130 China Clipper — photo by Joe May

Now back to the museum, there is more … much more! At the entry door is a refrigerator-sized boulder with a plaque honoring a Martin M-130 flying boat, the Philippine Clipper, which crashed in 1943 all 19 aboard** — as well as a sculpture of a man in an early glider. One enters into a three story tall atrium filled with natural light with several suspended aircraft including professionally made large scale models. Go first to the  left to pay for entry then cross to the right side into a capacious room with a height of three stories. The second floor is a balcony running the length of one side and it is devoted to the schooling of children although there are a few displays … and it is excellent to obtain a bird’s eye view of most of the displays in the great room. There are many unique and well done aircraft displays to see. The museum has much in the way of aviation’s early days, especially in California and it is enlightening. There is a one of a kind aircraft, designed and made in San Francisco by Herbert Thaden and it was one of the first aircraft with a metal skin meant to also be part of the load bearing structure. A vertical flying device, not a helicopter but an Aerocycloid (built by another San Franciscan citizen Professor Irvine) and tried in 1908 much before the Wright’s historic first flight.

Remnant fuselage of Herbert Thaden’s T-1 Argonaut

Replica of the 1908 Aerocycloid — photo by Joe May

Replicas of the Wright’s “Vin Fizz” and Curtiss’s Pusher aircraft to first land and take flight from a ship are on the floor. Among the many overhead aircraft is the Condor — and early UAV and it is huge. Flying for 80 hours at up to 20,000 feet on 200 foot wings it was also envisioned for delivering supplies. There are also helicopters, engines and much more.

Replica of the Wright Model EX “Vin Fizz” — photo by Joe May

Replica of the first aircraft to land and fly from a ship, a 1911 Curtiss Pusher with arresting hook — photo by Joe May

As much as I have tried to read about early aviation in the last few years, I learned that I did not know much at all with California’s significant achievement — not in the late 20th century that is common knowledge but in the late 19th and early 20th century when European inventors were moving strongly ahead. And the displays are professionally exhibited, not simply placed on the floor, with context whether it is historically accurate and lively posed mannequins or antiques such as cars or fueling equipment. This is an easy place to meander within, sit and ponder, experience rushes from new discoveries or thoughtfully pass an hour or two … worth repeated visits, as well.

*An earlier post was published a week ago and it is called, Hiller Aviation Museum — the extra fun part.

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Entry is modest at around $10 and getting there is hardly easier since it is less than 10 miles from San Francisco International Airport**. One could also fly into Oakland International Airport***. There is no café though it is not required since the museum is located within an urbanized area.

** the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library & Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum (but informally called the San Francisco Airport Museum & Library) is located with the International Terminal, soon a post will be made regarding my recent visit there

*** the Oakland Aviation Museum is located at the Oakland International Airport property and a post will appear soon regarding my recent visit there

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