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Museum preserves Air Force heritage

POSTED: November 22, 2012 7:00 a.m.
Randy C. Murray/

An SR-71 Blackbird exhibit at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins is popular among visitors.

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The U.S. Air Force has a rich history, and Georgia has played a big role in it. That history — along with 100 aircraft, artifacts and exhibits — can be found at the Museum of Aviation on Robins Air Force Base near Warner Robins.

Museum curator Mike Rowland said that although the museum is on the edge of Robins AFB, it has its own gate, which allows guests to avoid requirements for military identification.

The Museum of Aviation is off Russell Parkway, nine miles from I-75. Admission is free and open to the public.

Rowland said it is part of the USAF Heritage Program and managed by the National Museum of the USAF at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The nonprofit Museum of Aviation Foundation supports the museum and runs the gift shop, Victory Cafe, special events at the museum and the education program.

“The museum currently has about 100 aircraft, with about two-thirds of them inside our four exhibit buildings,” Rowland said. “The (SR-71) Blackbird is one of our most popular aircraft. The D-Day exhibit and the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit are popular exhibits (also). The great thing is, there’s something for just about everyone.”

The curator said another popular exhibit is the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, which highlights careers of famous Georgia aviators like Ben T. Epps, the first Georgian to fly an airplane, and Eugene Jacques Bullard, the first black military pilot.

According to airfieldsdatabase.com, more than 20 communities in Georgia hosted Army Air Fields during World War II, including Hunter Field in Chatham County.

According to airforce.com, the Army formed an Aeronautical Division in 1907 as part of its Signal Corps. This was only three years after the Wright brothers flew the first powered airplane.

Ten years later, what now is called the “Aviation Section” found its pilots deeply involved in World War I. The unit was unprepared for the war, so President Woodrow Wilson created the Army Air Service, and by war’s end, the unit had 19,000 officers and 178,000 enlisted men. American industry had turned out nearly 12,000 aircraft.

On Sept. 18, 1947, the U.S. Air Force was made an independent branch of the military. Later that year, test pilot Chuck Yeager flew the Bell XS-1, breaking the speed of sound and taking the Air Force into the supersonic era.

“The USAF’s history is rich, and we’re fortunate to be able to share and preserve a part of it,” Rowland said. “We invite everyone to come visit the Museum of Aviation and learn about the people, technology and stories that are part of USAF history.”

For information, go to www.museumofaviation.org.

 

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