United States Army Aviation Museum The U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Novosel, Dale County, commemorates the history of U.S. Army aircraft development and U.S. Army aviators from the Wright Brothers through the World Wars, Korean Conflict, and Vietnam, to the current Global War on Terror. The museum has more than 160 aircraft in its collections that include both experimental and production aircraft. It focuses primarily on rotary-winged aircraft, however, hosting one of the largest collections of military helicopters in the world. It is currently funded through grants and the non-profit fundraising wing of the museum, the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Foundation. The museum welcomes more than 100,000 visitors every year.
The museum was officially established on April 17, 1956. It initially served as a repository for military aircraft and artifacts for the first ten years of its existence because the facility had no funding, military regulation, or oversight during that period. It was run by senior aviation officers and civilian volunteers whose personal contributions of artifacts expanded its collection. In August 1964, the U.S. Army made the first step towards turning the museum into a more organized establishment when the it named the director of the Department of Maintenance at what was then Fort Rucker as the coordinator of the museum. This was a temporary measure until at least one full-time curator could be appointed, however. That occurred in October 1966 with the selection of Lt. Col. (Ret.) William A. Howell as the first curator for the facility.
U.S. Army Aviation Museum The museum was originally housed in one building at Fort Rucker. By the spring of 1967, however, a comprehensive long-range plan was developed for expansion of the facilities and operations that led to its relocation into a new building. The new museum formally opened its doors to the public on November 26, 1968, and would expand into two more surrounding buildings, in 1969 and again in 1972, to accommodate the growing size of its public and private collections. In 1970, the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Foundation was founded to provide permanent housing for the U.S. Army Aviation Museum and its collection. In November 1989, the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Foundation completed “Phase I” of its plans for the museum by raising enough capital to move the museum to its current much larger, permanent home, eventually welcoming approximately 4,000 visitors in its first full year. In 2014, the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Foundation began “Phase II” of its capital improvement campaign to expand the current museum so that more of its private aircraft collections can be publicly displayed.
The museum now occupies more than 85,000 square feet of public exhibit and private storage space. Its collections include in excess of 160 fixed-wing and rotary-wing military aircraft of which approximately one-third are on display to the public. The focus of the museum collections includes past and current full-production aircraft (produced on a large scale) as well as rare experimental and prototype aircraft that became the basis for future designs or did not go into production. Additionally, its historical property collection includes more than 3,000 items related to aircraft design and development.
1911 Model B Flyer The museum not only preserves and displays the history of U.S. Army Aviation, but it also celebrates the contributions of Army aviation personnel. The Vietnam Memorial exhibits the name, rank, and date of fatality for all 4,347 known Army aviation personnel who died as a result of combat service in airplanes and helicopters during the Vietnam Conflict from 1962-1975. Additionally, the Army Aviation Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who made significant achievements and contributions to Army aviation over the past century; it now includes some 100 inductees.
The museum also contains a research library that houses an extensive collection of aviation-related materials, including more than 1,000 technical and field manuals, hundreds of aviation-related books and periodicals, military dispatches and orders, staff studies, microforms, more than 2,000 films, and approximately 95,000 photographs to aid researchers in documenting Army aviation history. The museum is also engaged in an ongoing effort to record the oral histories of hundreds of individuals in the Army aviation community to provide more resources for future researchers.
The U.S. Army Aviation Museum is free and open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays and all federal holidays except Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Independence Day. Because the museum is on an active military installation, visitors should plan for additional time to clear entrance requirements and should plan to comply with all regulations.