DOVER DE – When the U.S Air Force must move something really heavy and big, like a tank, it needs a big aircraft. To move many tanks all at once it needs even bigger jets, and maybe several of them. Most people, unless they’re involved in military operations, rarely get near such behemoths.
But you, and other members of the public, can personally experience the size and scope of some of the largest lifters in the Air Force inventory on Oct. 21 (2023; Saturday). That’s the date of the last Open Cockpit Day scheduled for this year at the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover DE. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the museum, 1301 Heritage Rd.
The museum recounts the work and history of personnel and machines used to move practically anything from one point in the world to another. Unsurprisingly, it is located near Dover Air Force Base, which serves as headquarters for two separate airlift squadrons.
Museum admission and on-site parking both are free. Volunteer guides – most of whom are veterans, retired pilots, or former crew members on airlift flights – can respond to almost any questions, except those for which answers may still be classified. Possibly more important, and certainly as entertaining, are their personal stories, and those of about 30 planes and jets seen in the museum and on its grounds.
Even the building has a tale, its website explains. The structure is a former aircraft hangar that, during World War II, was part of a complex housing secret military operations for rocket development. Later it was home to a variety of fighter squadrons. Finally, in the 1990s, the hangar was restored, named to the National Register of Historic Places, and rechristened as the museum.
Open Cockpit Days are usually held on the third Saturday of every month between April and October. During those days visitors receive “full access to many of the museum’s aircraft … if weather permits and tour guides are available.”
The museum and its exhibits are regularly open Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.. They are closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and federal holidays.
Several air haulers on display, and one that’s not
The latest and currently greatest air hauler in the Air Force fleet is the Lockheed Martin C-5M Super Galaxy. The Air Force claims it can transport more than 140 tons of soldiers, matériel, and equipment over a distance of about 2,600 miles without refueling. Unfortunately, you won’t see any at the museum. They’re currently being kept busy on missions across the globe.
The museum is home, however, to one of the Super Galaxy’s predecessors, the C-5 Galaxy version. Its cargo bay doors are opened to visitors, who once inside get a better understanding of its massiveness. More than one guest has wondered aloud: “How does this thing ever get off the ground?” There’s also a mock-up within the museum of the C-5 flight deck (above and below), overflowing with switches, dials, and gauges.
Other air haulers on the grounds include a C-141B Starlifter and C-130 Hercules, both open for self-guided tours when weather permits. The Starlifter is wheelchair accessible, as is the main floor of the museum.
Hot weather can be a problem because temperatures quickly rise inside the aircraft. As a result, they are closed to the public if the mercury hits 90 degrees or higher.
Among the newest aircraft onsite, museum Operations Manager Michael Hurlburt reported Wednesday (Sept. 27), is a KC-10 advanced tanker and cargo aircraft that once refueled other missions in flight. It’s usually open for public inspection too. While you’re there, also get a peek at how the nation’s vice presidents traveled in style on a former iteration of Air Force Two.
There’s plenty more at the museum to keep visitors engaged. Its exhibits introduce histories of important or historic airlift operations; a Medal of Honor Hallway, and a former air control tower from the Dover airfield.
Children are welcomed, but parental supervision is required. Kids age 10 and older are allowed to use the museum’s free flight simulators.
Things to Know If You Go
Travels With The Post last visited the Air Mobility Command Museum during March 2019 as part of a trip that also involved other destinations. Getting there from Pottstown involves a slightly more than 2-hour drive covering about 110 miles. It can be reached by car using U.S. Route 422 East, Interstates 476 and 95 south, and DE Route 1 south to Exit 91.
The museum entrance is off DE Route 9 and is well-marked by traffic signage. It cannot be reached by going through the air base.
Once there, be aware that smokers are limited to only a reserved area. Smoking is banned in all other parts of the museum and grounds. Pets are not allowed, although specially trained service dogs (but not all service animals) will be permitted.
There are times when some aircraft may be publicly unavailable, usually during maintenance or exhibit improvement efforts.
A limited number of snacks can be purchased at the museum canteen and store. Neither food or beverages are allowed in the museum or on its aircraft.
Photos by Travels With The Post