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Patuxent River Naval Air Museum

Located outside of Gate 1 of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station is the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum.  This is one museum that is going to have to be a trip all by itself—though what you get is worth the effort.  Pax River is the home of most of the U.S. Navy’s testing.  As such, the museum is a bit remote.

Pax River is home of USNTPS, the Navy’s Test Pilots School and the Strike Directorate. It is located 60 miles south, southeast of Washington, D.C. Directions can be found here.

So why go? First, if you are lucky, you might get to see an F-35B/C doing touch-n-goes, or maybe a P-8A Poseidon orbiting the base. Second, and more importantly, you go for a well-kept collection of aircraft that represents U.S. Naval Aviation of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Exhibit One:  The Indoor Museum

The museum has an indoor display with two 1/48th scale aircraft carriers.  Drones, models, engines, and revolving displays fill the hall.  When I visited in October, 2011, the museum was showing off quilts based on Naval Aviation in honor of the Centennial of Naval Aviation.   The primary focus of the interior display is a new A-1 Curtis Triad Pusher replica, built by the EAA Patuxent River Chapter 478. It also has the Northrop-Grumman X-47A flying wing UAV as well as other UAVs tested at Pax.

The museum does have a series of Flight simulators, and for a fee, you can fly any number of current and older military aircraft.

X-47A  A-1 Curtis Triad Pusher


Exhibit Two: The Outdoors Display:

The focus “mission” of the museum is to present the testing of prototypes and the heritage of Pax River, and how it came to incorporate the Missions of the Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, Pennsylvania, as well as the Naval Air Warfare Center in Trenton, New Jersey (the old General Motors plant).  If you are looking to see colorful aircraft, this is the place. However, if you are looking for a variety of colors, this won’t be it.  The outdoor aircraft are painted in schemes that you would have seen them in during their testing rolls: white, gull grey, and orange—lots of orange—all of which are lovingly restored and cared for by squadrons at the base.

The outside display has the following:

Attack: Fighters: Surface Warfare: Helos: Odds & Oddities

NFA-18A Hornet

F-6D or F4D-1 Skyray

S-3A Viking

CH-53A Sea Stallion

T-39 Saberliner with F/A-18A Hornet nose

NA-4M Skyhawk II

 F9F-6 Cougar

S2F Tracker

UH-1B Huey

JPATS Prototype PC-9 (Forerunner of T-6A Texan II)

RA-5C Vigilante

F-4J Phantom II

E-2B Hawkeye

SH-2G Sea Sprite

T-34B Mentor

    A-6E Intruder

F-14A Tomcat

AH-1J SeaCobra


A-7E Corsair II


Outdoors Display

Personal Gem: Boeing X-32B & Lockheed X-35C

The most interesting two aircraft of the display face each other out on the apron.  They are the two competitors for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF): the Boeing X-32B, the loser; and the Lockheed X-35C, the winner.  Nowhere else in the world can you see both competitors in one place.  The X-32A is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.  The X-35A is at NASM Udvar-Hazy Museum at Dulles. They are currently outdoors, but I hope someday they get to go inside.

Boeing X-32B  Lockheed X-35C

Entry is Free:  However, make a donation!

The hours are:

Tuesday through Sunday:  9 AM to 5 PM

Closed Mondays and Major Holidays


By David Vanderhoof

@DMVanderhoof on twitter

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