If you haven’t been to The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum at Paine Field recently — or ever — visit this year. Founder Paul G. Allen’s amazing collection of vintage aircraft and military vehicles has expanded again, recently opening its new Hangar C to showcase many more rare acquisitions. Even if you’re not an aviation buff, you’ll be intrigued with the restored vintage planes and the fascinating stories behind them, plus new interactive exhibits in each hangar.
The major such exhibit is Why War: The Causes of Conflict. Via large-scale touchscreens, you can explore the causes of military confrontations throughout our nation’s history. At the Conflict Simulator Command Station, you play the role of a world leader, deal with world-changing situations and make critical choices — then learn the potential consequences. With Chronicles of War, you gain a real understanding of war’s impact on soldiers, women and children via their true stories.
Hangar C is the third expansion of The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum. The facility opened at Paine Field in 2008 in a vintage,51,000-square-foot hangar to showcase historic 1935-1945 combat aircraft from the U.S., Britain, Germany, Russia and Japan. Then a new 26,000-square-foot wing was added in 2013 to accommodate more acquisitions.
Now 32,000-square-foot Hangar C has joined the museum complex. Currently Flying Heritage showcases a total of 27 restored “war bird” aircraft and over 40 military vehicles from tanks to a WWII landing craft. A highlight is Hangar C’s on-site restoration of a Ju 87 Stuka, the dive bomber that became the symbol of Germany’s terrifying Blitzkrieg tactics. It is one of only three such planes still in existence. You may see mechanics working on this legendary aircraft to resurrect it, piece by piece, into flying condition by 2020. Then it will be the world’s only restored Stuka capable of flight.
Indeed, nearly 85 percent of Flying Heritage’s vintage planes and tanks can fly or run. They are maintained continually and participate in “Fly Days” and other major events at Paine Field during warm-weather months. Paine Field Aviation Day kicks off the season of such activities in mid-May, followed by Tankfest Northwest on Memorial Day weekend. See the website for all the events and details.
You can see some of Hangar C’s tanks and military vehicles close-up to get a real idea of what soldiers experienced when in them. WWII armored vehicles include tanks such as the M5A1 Stuart, M7B1 Priest and M24 Chaffee, a M8 Greyhound armored car, an Opel Super 6 German staff car, a Dodge Ambulance, R75 BMW motorcycle with side car and T-54 Battle Tank.
The new hangar not only preserves these artifacts, it incorporates the emotional side of war with exhibits on how men, women, and animals were affected. You can learn about the life of a female Russian sniper, appreciate the grueling day-to-day tasks soldiers had to endure, and view a diorama that dramatizes war’s devastation with a M26 Pershing tank in a destroyed Berlin street.
Some of the rare, restored aircraft now in Hangar C include the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt (named Tallahassee Lassie by Seattle native and WWII veteran Colonel Ralph C. Jenkins in honor of his wife), P-51D Mustang, and two planes with amazing foldable wings: the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and Grumman F6F Hellcat. Overhead hangs SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded aircraft to exceed Mach 2 and Mach 3 and fly over 100 kilometers (62 miles) in altitude.
New exhibits have been added in Hangars 1 and 2, including Paul G. Allen’s latest WWII underwater discoveries of the sunken USS Indianapolis, Lexington, Juneau and Helena battleships. Watch fascinating video footage of the wrecks miles below the waves and see a 16-inch WWII battleship shell.
Flying Heritage’s original focus on WWII has also been expanded to include one WWI aircraft (Curtiss JN-4D Jenny), and several planes/vehicles from the Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War and Gulf War.
Restored aircraft, tanks and military vehicles are rotated periodically throughout the three hangars. Look for these particularly interesting exhibits: aCurtiss P-40C Tomahawk (with “shark teeth” painted on its nosecone), Focke Wulf 190 D-13 Dora (the only such long-nose model to survive World War II), Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-3 (the first modern fighter plane), Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa Oscar (Japanese Kamikaze attacker) and Polikarpov U-2/Po-2 (flown by Russian “Night Witches” over Germany).
Knowledgeable docents are available to answer questions, provide in-depth guided tours and recount wartime stories that bring the exhibits to life. The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday until Memorial Day, then daily through Labor Day.
Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum
3407 109th St. S.W.
Everett, WA 98204
— By Julie Gangler
Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.