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U.S. Army Aviation Museum

3 June 2011

U.S. Army Aviation Museum

31º 19′ 27″ N / 85º 42′ 46″ W

Bell AH-1 Cobra fronting at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum — photo by Joseph May

This museum is wonderfully done and a joy to visit. Although not remotely sited, it is also not within or near a major city, this makes a special opportunity since it is not expected to be filled with visitors. So, why is it located at one end of Daleville AL in Fort Rucker? Simply put, because this is where the U. S Army first trains its aviators and then sends them to Fort Stuart for advanced helicopter training or to stay for fixed wing or heavy lift helicopter training.

Bell OH-58 Kiowa at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum’s main entry — photo by Joseph May

One of the U.S. Army’s largest aircraft, the de Havilland C-7 Caribou — photo by Joseph May

There is no food or drink (except for water) at the museum so make plans for eating in Daleville or, perhaps, plan to have a picnic in the shaded ground that adjoins the parking lot. The main building is cool as well as spacious but take care not to miss the static displays which surround the building, including the rear — an unusual occurrence I’ve seen elsewhere only at the U.S. Air Force Armament Museum.  There is an upstairs which displays art as well as giving a view to the floor of both wings that make up the main building. Aircraft from pre WW I through the modern day are to be found here as well as a few full scale dioramas, which are all well done.

Piper J-3 Cub full scale diorama, note the cot and mosquito netting under the wing as well as the “field office” — photo by Joseph May

I visited on a Monday in April and I was greatly looking forward to having the museum largely to myself. Brag and the gods laugh! When I got there at 9:30am the large parking lot was more than half filled and people were meandering their way in to the museum. Remarkably, young girls were in dresses, boys were tidy, women were in heels and service personnel were in dress blues (the US Army’s most formal of attire). Making a long story short, an aviation class was having a graduation ceremony — with ranking officers and a brass band!

Bell UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” full scale diorama, showing what helicopters can do better than any other aircraft, going to otherwise inaccessible places, this one a hill top in Vietnam — photo by Joseph May

I was feeling a bit of frustration since I could see that my photography was getting substantially delayed, but I soon got over it since this was a unique insight into military protocol. Thankfully, I observed many things such as how the military is precise with how things are run, even with ceremonies, no ad libbing needed and no indecision as to what will be happening and when. It was impressive to witness and it reminds me of the maxim describing how an organized few can do what a multitudinous mass cannot. History and honor were both retold, and in the retelling to be carried on into the future. I guessed that it would all take about an hour but had no real idea since there was no announcement to read. I adjusted by taking photos in the early aviation wing, away from the ceremony in the main wing so that I would not be a distraction. Soon I finished with those and went to the second floor so that I could see the ceremony from the vantage of being above.  I noticed within a few additional minutes, the forces of nature begin to make themselves known as some of the children who had been sitting politely for nearly 30 minutes started to be taken to the rear of the main display area so they could move about the large floor to burn off their energy. Yes, children can only be constrained for just so long 😉

Another of the US Army Aviation Museum’s full scale dioramas, this one shows a Hughes OH-6 Cayuse hovering over a downed and abandoned Bell UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” in a rice paddy during the Vietnam War, note the gunner with an M-60 7.62mm machine gun suspended from a sling — photo by Joseph May

Make no mistake, the museum should be visited for its displays, art and history preservation. This is a national caliber museum and there are less than a handful of museums which have serious helicopter exhibits — and the U.S. Army Aviation Museum is the best of them by far, in a class all by itself.

A portion of the US Army Aviation Museum’s main floor showing about 25% building’s aircraft exhibits, or about 15% of the overall aircraft on display — photo by Joseph May

Note: many thanks to David Lord (see comments)

12 Comments leave one →
  1. 3 June 2011 09:02

    Thanks for a great blog entry on the little-known U.S. Army Aviation Museum…one to visit for any aviation historian! I fear that the Museum of Army Flying in the UK is also rather neglected. The collections are superb – from pre-WW1 to post Desert Storm. Lots of helicopters, of course, but excellent assault glider, WW1, and Air Observation Post (as we called it) fixed wing exhibits. If you have a moment, please explore their site.

  2. david lord permalink
    3 June 2011 10:08

    Hi, Joe…
    GREAT MUSEUM in my opinion….I was wondering …in your photo of the “field office”, is that a cessna L19, or a Piper cub? I thought the 19 had a large rear window..but I may be wrong..
    david lord

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      3 June 2011 10:50

      Hi Dave, You have a better eye them me but all I can say is the information packard stated it was a Cessna L-19 Bird Dog. You coudl be right in that these are both long lives aircraft and each could have undergone changes in the tailplane as they each evolved? Joe

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      16 June 2011 09:20

      Mid June — Dave you are right I am happy to say — it is a Piper J-3 Cub. I was not reading my notes correctly 😉

  3. CJZEPP permalink
    9 January 2012 11:16

    What is the helicopter in the last picture with the opening front? I’ve seen pictures before in a Vietnam book. Great Pics and Musem BTW.

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      9 January 2012 23:19


      That helicopter is a Sikorsky CH-37 Mohave. I have a post on it — with more photos of it — entitled “Sikorsky’s Mojave — Igor’s first helo twin” but if you type “CH-37” into the search window and select ENTER you will get to it quickly.


  4. 14 May 2016 13:17

    One on my list Joe, just need to work out when…

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      14 May 2016 16:08

      Well worth it. Almost entirely aircraft and full scale dioramas–some of the best I’ve seen.

  5. Bill Bryson permalink
    17 March 2021 15:26

    Why doesn’t the Army consider the US Army Air Force as part of any museum? They were Army and NOT Air Force.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      17 March 2021 16:20

      You make a fair point. FWIW–I imagine the polite answer is the AAF legacy went to the USAF back in the day. My cynical answer is the Army’s museum is overfull as it is so they likely don’t want more aircraft to tend to as well as the Army generally avoiding pissing off the Air Force. Recall, the AF threw snit fits over the Army’s use of helicopters, their C-7 Caribou as well as their OV-1 Mohawk–and have tried to kill the A-10 two or three times without a real CAS replacement aircraft.


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