Oakland Aviation Museum
8252 Earhart Road
Oakland, CA 94621
Everyone who lives in the Bay Area is aware of the micro climates that exist, drive just over the hill from the Bay Area to the Tri-Valley most days and witness a dramatic temperature change. So, on a hot spring day (nearly 100 degrees in Livermore) my flight instructor suggested that we do our normal landing practice at Oakland’s North Field (20 degrees cooler). I generally stay out of the Bay Area’s air space due to air traffic congestion, but since my instructor was with me I felt confident. I was very much surprised at how easy it was to get cleared to the North Field and how accommodating the air traffic controllers were. I was also surprised to find that there is an aviation museum just outside the fence.
The Oakland Airport has played an important part in aviation history here are just some of the highlights:
- June 1927 construction of the North Field begins, including a 7,020 foot long runway the longest in the world for its day.
- July 1927 new speed record set from Oakland to Hawaii 25 hours, 37 minutes.
- August 1927 nine planes participate in the Dole races to Hawaii.
- January 1935 Amelia Earhart returns to Oakland from Hawaii, the first trans-Pacific solo adventure, an 18 hour, 15 minute flight.
- May 1937 Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan depart Oakland for their ill-fated around the world journey.
The Oakland Aviation Museum exists to keep this rich aviation history alive. Now, this isn’t the Smithsonian, the hangar is cool and musty smelling but to anyone interested in aviation history, it is a gold mine. There are rooms and exhibits dedicated to African American aviation pioneers, women in aviation (one of which, Amelia Reid taught me to fly), WWII flyers, Jimmy Doolittle, Amelia Earhart and airlines that got their start in Oakland. In addition to the numerous displays there are of course aircraft.
There is the one of a kind Hiller 10-99 helicopter, contender for the U.S. Army assault helicopter contract that was won by the Bell Huey. Outside with some old warbirds you will find a NASA experimental two seat Harrier, a BOAC clipper, and a ubiquitous MiG-15. Over in a corner there are pieces of what was once a reconnaissance jet, model unknown to the docents I talked to. I came home did a little research and identified it as a 1950’s vintage RF84.
If you are interested in aviation history and more specifically aviation history in the bay area may I suggest a visit to the Oakland Aviation Museum? They are open Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Unfortunately there is no food available at the Museum, I was hoping for at least a hot dog stand!