LAKELAND, Fla. — For anyone with an interest in aviation and flying, the Florida Air Museum is a must-see attraction! Learn about the history of aviation in Florida and get up close to planes, prototypes, replicas, space artifacts and military aircraft.
There are more than 45 museum assets to check out, both inside and around the external property.
"When you come in the museum, we've redone our map to really introduce you to some of the individual personalities of the aircraft on display," said Jayme Jamison, Manager of the Florida Air Museum.
A popular display to check out is the Howard Hughes exhibit, which features artifacts from his aviation and Hollywood careers, including his flight suit and another suit rumored to have been worn by Catherine Hepburn when she flew with him.
Currently, there is a temporary traveling exhibit from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that looks at scientists' role in aviation, such as collecting hurricane and migratory data.
"One of the things that I love about the museum is it emphasizes the different career paths, or passions, hobbies that you can take in aviation," said Jamison.
The museum is also home to the Florida Aviation Hall of Fame, which inducts new members every year.
After visiting the museum, guests can drive to the campgrounds at the edge of the property to watch planes take off from the Lakeland Linder International Airport.
Aerospace Center for Excellence
The Florida Air Museum is a part of the Aerospace Center for Excellence. The Aerospace Center for Excellence also organizes the annual Sun'n Fun Aerospace Expo event, which is the world's second largest general aviation gathering and airshow. Their mission is to engage, educate and accelerate the next generation of aerospace professionals, which they do through a series of educational programs for people of all ages and abilities.
"We believe that everyone who's involved in aerospace should be a professional, weather they're being paid for it or not," said Ed Young, Executive Director of the Aerospace Center for Excellence. "Education is our primary purpose. We engaged 40,000 students last year."
Two notable programs they've started are Car Seat to Cockpit and Transition to the Sky.
Car Seat to Cockpit gets young children excited about aviation by visiting daycares and showing kids that they're never too young to learn about flying.
Transition to the Sky helps people with special needs and their families learn what to expect by walking them through the commercial flying process, from airport arrival to security screening to an in-flight simulation.
The museum is also working on an expansion called Project Skylab, which is a STEM learning facility that will include a holographic room that allows people to walk on Mars as well as a space for students from Polk County High School to work on their STEM projects and see them in action.
The Florida Air Museum is located at 4175 Medulla Road in Lakeland and it's open Thursday - Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays 12 p.m. to 4 pm. Face coverings are required at this time. To learn more about the museum, click here.