13 Must-Visit Airplane Museums Around the World

Something is fascinating about old aircraft and the history of aviation. Luckily, plenty of museums worldwide showcase that history to perfection, with a whole host of aircraft on display and tales of how we got to where we are today.

Many of these museums have vast aircraft collections spanning the Second World War, the Cold War, and the present day. Some even have a few aircraft from World War I or perhaps even earlier than that.

This list details 13 of the world's best aviation museums and what makes them so good. We've based this on the size of the collections, the aircraft, and how well they tell the tale of the history of flight.

RAF Cosford Museum – Cosford, England

Vulcan B2 RAF Cosford
Image Credit: RAF Museum Midlands.

One of the standout museums in the United Kingdom is at RAF Cosford. Once a significant World War II airbase, Cosford now acts as a training base and is home to the RAF Cosford Airshow. The base is also home to the vast RAF Museum in the Midlands, with four large hangars full of aircraft and a few others on display outside.

Most impressive is the Cold War hangar, a new building opened in 2007 with interactive displays telling the history of the Cold War alongside some of the period's best aircraft. The museum is also the only place in the world where the RAF's three V-Vombers, the Avro Vulcan, Vickers Valiant, and Handley Page Vitor, are on display together. The Valiant at Cosford, XD818, is the only one left in the world.

RAF Museum Hendon – London, England

RAF Museum Hendon
Image Credit: Iain Duncan – The Royal Air Force Museum, CC BY-SA 4.0/WikiCommons.

The RAF has two museums, the second of which is located at RAF Hendon in London. Cosford is impressive, but Hendon takes things to another level with over 100 aircraft on display, including the Avro Lancaster, Vulcan, Short Sunderland, and Junkers Ju-87 Stuka.

The museum has six hangars, each telling a different part of aviation history. Hangar 1 is RAF Stories and First to the Future, with Hangar 2 the Grahame-White Factory showcasing flights on the earliest days. Hangars 3 and 4 are the historic hangars, focussing on the Cold War and Second World War. Hangar 5 is the Bomber Hall, which focuses on the Battle of Britain, and Hangar 6 is the RAF in an Age of Uncertainty, which tells the story of the RAF from the 1980s to the present day.

Imperial War Museum Duxford – Duxford, England

IWM Duxford USA Hangar
Image Credit: Imperial War Museums.

The Imperial War Museum has various sites across the U.K., and perhaps the best is located at Duxford Airfield. Host of various airshows, the airfield is home to a vast museum, the largest aviation museum in the U.K., with over 200 aircraft on display. The museum houses an impressive collection of American aircraft in the American Air Museum hangar, including the SR-71 Blackbird and a B-52.

AirSpace, formerly the Superhangar, houses some of Britain's finest aircraft, including one of the two surviving TSR2 strike aircraft and a Concorde prototype G-AXDN. The hangar also houses Vulcan XJ824, which is to undergo restoration. Victor XH648 recently went on display, and this is the last Victor B1 left in the world.

Fleet Air Arm Museum – Somerset, England

Fleet Air Arm Museum
Image Credit: National Museum of the Royal Navy.

The Fleet Air Arm Museum is the official museum of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm division, focusing on aircraft flown in British Naval service. However, the collection does house aircraft from other walks of aviation, including the first British Concorde prototype and the rebuilt Fairey Delta 2 test aircraft.

One of the museum's highlights is its aircraft carrier experience, as well as the simulators that let you try to land an aircraft onto the deck of a carrier yourself. Over 100 aircraft are on display at the museum, easily making it one of the best in the country.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – Washington D.C., United States

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Image Credit: Smithsonian Institute.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is one of the oldest in the world. It was established in 1946 as the National Air Museum before it became the Smithsonian in the early 1970s. Initially, the museum wasn't big enough to house many of its exhibits, but it has now grown into one of the most prominent aviation museums in the world.

The museum houses some truly historic aircraft, such as the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, the aircraft that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The museum is also home to the Spirit of St. Louis, which Charles Lindberg flew in May 1927 on the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight from New York to Paris.

National Museum of the United States Air Force – Ohio, United States

Image Credit: KLaRock – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/WikiCommons.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force (USAF) is the world's oldest and largest aviation museum located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Its collection includes over 30 aircraft and missiles on display, including some of the most historic aircraft ever serving with the USAF.

Boeing B-17 Memphis Belle is one of the aircraft on display. Keeping it company is a B-36 Peacemaker, the only surviving North American XB-70 Valkyrie, and Boeing B-29 Bockscar, the aircraft that dropped the Fat Man A-bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.

The Museum Of Flight – Seattle, United States

Image Credit: HollywoodGuard – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/WikiCommons.

The exceptional Museum of Flight is located in the Seattle Metropolitan Area. It is the largest private air and space museum in the world. The museum's roots go back to the Pacific Northwest Aviation Historical Foundation, founded in 1965. The name was first used in 1968.

Since then, the museum has grown and grown with some of the world's most historic aircraft on display. These include the Boeing 747 City of Everett, the first prototype of the legendary Boeing airliner and former British Airways Concorde G-BOAG, which underwent a fresh repaint in 2021.

Central Air Force Museum – Monino, Russia

Image Credit: By Navigator-avia – Музей авиации в Монино, CC BY-SA 3.0/WikiCommons.

It is currently impossible to visit the huge Central Air Force Museum in Monino, Russia. Located on the grounds of the Gagarin Air Force Academy in the Moscla Oblast, the museum is one of the largest in the world, with 173 aircraft on display and 127 aircraft engines.

The museum houses some of Russia's most remarkable aircraft, many of which are from the Cold War. One is the Tupolev Tu-144, the Russian supersonic airliner dubbed “Concordski” due to its resemblance and espionage links to Concorde. The museum also houses one of the two MIl V-12 helicopters, the largest ever built.

Technik Museum Sinsheim – Sinsheim, Germany

Image Credit: Ank Kumar – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/WikiCommons.

Located in Sinsheim, the Technik Museum opened in 1981 and houses a variety of aircraft and automobiles. The highlight, however, is the outside display of a French Concorde F-BVFB alongside a Russian Tupolev Tu-144, the only example of the Tu-144 on display outside Russia. This means that Sinsheim is the only place in the world where both supersonic airliners are on display together.

The museum acquired its Tu-144 in 2001, and rather than fly it in, the Russian airliner was shipped over before going on display. It and Concorde are displayed in a take-off pose, and visitors can walk through both aircraft.

Solway Aviation Museum – Carlisle, England

Vulcan XJ823 Solway
Image Credit: Solway Aviation Museum.

Located at Carlisle Airport, the small but well-maintained Solway Aviation Museum is an excellent place to visit. You are allowed access to many of the aircraft's cockpits. As of 2024, the museum has 12 aircraft on display, all superbly looked after.

The latest of these is the sole surviving Blackburn Beverley, formerly on display at the museum at Fort Paull. The museum raised over $60,000 to save the aircraft, which is being moved to Solway at the time of writing. The collection's centerpiece is Vulcan XJ823, which made its final flight to the museum in January 1983.

The Helicopter Museum – Weston-super-Mare, England

The Helicopter Museum Super Frelon
Image Credit: The Helicopter Museum.

For those who like their aircraft rotary, the Helicopter Museum in England is one of the best in the world. It is the largest helicopter museum in the U.K. and is home to over 80 rotary aircraft, ranging from more modern types to real rarities, such as the twin-rotor Bristol Type 192 Belvedere.

The museum also houses some real oddities. It is home to a Kamov Ka-26 Hoodlum, a Soviet helicopter with two clever detachable pods, and it has a few examples of the Westland Lynx on display, including AH-1 G-LYNKX, the current holder of the helicopter speed record of 249.09 mph.

Musée de l'air et de l'espace – Le Bourget, France

Image Credit: Pline – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0/WikiCommons.

Located just north of Paris in Le Bourget is the brilliant Musée de l'air et de l'espace. This French museum occupies over 150,000 square meters and is home to some of the world's most historic aircraft, including the very first Concorde prototype and an example of an ex-Air France Boeing 747.

Over 150 aircraft are on display, including two Concordes side-by-side. The museum is also fortunate enough to be the retirement home of the Airbus A380 prototype MSN F-WWDD, the aircraft that superseded the Boeing 747 as the world's largest airliner.

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum – Oregon, United States

H-4 Spruce Goose Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum
Image Credit: Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.

One reason alone makes the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum one of the best in the world. That is the fact it is home to the iconic Hughes H-4 Hercules Spruce Goose, the largest flying boat in the world, designed by Howard Hughes, that flew once, very briefly, in 1947.

The museum is located in Oregon and was first established in 1991 as the Evergreen Museum. The collection alongside the Spruce Goose is vast, with aircraft such as the Boeing B-17, Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, and A-10 Thunderbolt II all on display.

Author: Henry Kelsall

Henry is a freelance writer, with a love for all things motoring whether it be classic sports cars, or Formula 1 racing. He has freelanced for over eight years now, mostly in automotive matters, but he has also dabbled in other forms of writing too. He has a lot of love for Japanese classics and American muscle cars, in particular the Honda NSX and first-generation Ford Mustang. When not writing, Henry is often found at classic car events or watching motorsports at home, but he also has a curious passion for steam trains and aviation.

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