Celebrating 25 years of operation, the Arkansas Air Museum is the state’s first and largest air museum and features a one-of-a-kind collection of historic and modern aircraft, including Walmart founder Sam Walton’s first plane purchased in 1954.
The AAA Southern Traveler “Travel Treasures” Department recently published a feature titled “History soars at the Arkansas Air Museum in Fayetteville.”
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the museum opened in 1986 in an all-wooden hangar at Fayetteville’s Drake Field. One of the nation’s few remaining wooden hangars from the World War II era, it is fitting that the building would become the museum site because it has been at the center of northwest Arkansas’s aviation history.
Visitors to the Arkansas Air Museum will find an impressive, one-of-a-kind collection of aircraft including a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk fighter jet, a Bell UH-1H Huey Helicopter from the Vietnam era, a replica of a Howard DGA-6 Mister Mulligan, a modern Mini-500 "Experimental" Helicopter, and many more including the aircraft pictured below.
The Arkansas Air Museum is housed within an all-wood hangar originally built in 1943 by the city of Fayetteville. Builders used wood because of the shortage of metal during the Second World War. Known as the "White Hangar," it sheltered the University of Arkansas' College Training Detachment aircraft and later served as home to Scheduled Skyways, one the nation's first commuter airlines.
The curved beams of the wood hangar, constructed from 2x8 and 2x6 timbers, can be seen in the upper background of the photograph below.
1964 LearJet model 23 in the all-wood hangar that houses the Arkansas Air Museum. Fayetteville, Ark.
In the foreground of the picture above is a LearJet model 23 built in 1964. According to the museum, it "is only the ninth Lear to roll off the assembly line. This plane was modified by Bobby Younkin and was used in numerous air shows across North America. One of the most respected aerobatics pilots in the world, Younkin died in a tragic mid-air collision July 10, 2005 while performing his 'Masters of Disaster' act in Canada."
The Boeing-Stearman N2S-2 (PT-17) is, according to the Arkansas Air Museum, the "plane that trained America's pilots" during the Second World War. The 1940 model, seen below, was produced by the Boeing Company and the U.S, Navy model on display utilizes a Lycoming rather than the more traditional Continental engine.
U.S. Navy Boeing-Stearman N2S-2 airplane. Arkansas Air Museum. Fayetteville, Ark.
"Sam Walton’s first airplane is even in the collection," notes AAA. "A tribute to the founder of Walmart whose first store was in nearby Bentonville." Sam's first airplane was a Ercoupe Model 415-C. He purchased the 1947 model, which listed for around $3,000, in 1954 for $1,850. Sam sold the plane in 1956 after finding the plane to be too small for long distance travel. A page from Sam's flight logbook can be found at the museum.
Sam Walton's 1947 Ercoupe Model 415-C. Arkansas Air Musuem. Fayetteville, Ark.
For travelers to Northwest Arkansas, a visit to the Arkansas Air Museum is truly a "travel treasure." Not only are the historic aircraft on display, but visitors can also learn about aviation through photos and portraits of members of the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame including Louise Thaden and WWI flying ace Field Kindley.
Visitors are also encouraged to ask the master craftsmen working in the restoration shop questions. "Our aircraft restorers are always more than willing to tell you about what they're doing," according to the Arkansas Air Museum.
The museum notes that, "Much more than static displays, many of the aircraft in the Arkansas Air Museum collection are still airworthy. That's why we call it a museum that flies." And, it is true. The Arkansas Air Museum is still flying high, and reaching new heights, after 25 years.
The Arkansas Air Museum is located at 4290 S. School St. and visitors hoping to see a particular airplane are encouraged to call ahead at (479) 521-4947. Because some of the planes are still airworthy, from time to time their owners take them up for a ride.
The Arkansas Air Museum is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museum is closed on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Admission is by donation with the following rates: Family -- $20.00* | Adults -- $8.00 | Children 6 to 12 -- $4.00 | Children 5 and Under -- FREE.
*Family is either parents and children under 16 or grandparents and grandkids under 16.