Aviation Museum: Fascinating Family Fun
Eager kids prepare to fly in the Young Eagle program at the
Hiller Aviation Museum. Photo by Jon Adamson.
largest indoor aircraft museum opened in 1998, but many Bay Area
residents are still unaware of Hiller Aviation Museum, located at
the San Carlos Airport.
The huge facility is filled with fascinating exhibits about flight.
A collection of early aircraft from 1905 to 1915 are suspended above
visitors entering the atrium.
At the museum, visitors will find a full-scale replica of the Avitor,
built in 1869 in San Francisco. It was an unmanned, steam powered,
“aeroplane” that flew long before the Wright Brothers attempted
their first powered flight at Kitty Hawk.
The museum is named for Stanley Hiller, Jr., who was a precocious
19-year old when he invented his first helicopter. Then he had to
teach himself to fly it. To help keep the experimental plane secret,
he tested it in the UC, Berkeley Memorial stadium.
Reportedly Hiller tethered the aircraft to the ground so it would
not go too high until he learned to control it. Although there were
a few crashes in the beginning, he was soon landing in unlikely
spots about the city of Berkeley.
Hiller is known to have been fascinated by business, and was “...driven
by the thought of new opportunities in vertical lift.” His UH-12
is best known for its use in MASH operations in the Korean War.
Hiller Aircraft was known for innovations such as the Hiller flying
platform, a surveillance satellite, and a tilt-wing transport (predecessor
to Marine’s Osprey).
Planes on display
Along with videos, photographic and interactive displays,
one can check out a Stinson 8, built in 1929 for Varney Airlines.
Varney later joined with three other companies to become United
The unmanned Condor “spy plane” with its 201-foot wingspan came
to the Museum from the Lawrence Livermore Lab. It was flown in the
1990s for various purposes, including weather station checks and
photography. The Condor is said to have had the longest range of
any large aircraft in the world at that time.
Guests will have a chance to try out some of the cockpit sections
of larger aircraft. There is a training cockpit of the Douglas A-4M
(Skyhawk) and the front section of a Boeing 747, which is accessible
to the public with pilot docents who share their experiences in
The front 90-foot section the Boeing Super Sonic Transport, a Link
Trainer, and glider and more are on display.
Every aircraft tells a story of innovation in the history of aviation,
according to Museum Spokesperson Willie Turner.
While there, look for an interesting collection of experimental
aircraft, and don’t miss the museum’s Restoration Shop, where maintenance
and restoration are ongoing.
• Every third Saturday, ongoing: Free flights for 8–17
• February 12, at 11am Special presentation: “Where is Amelia?”
Speaker Reed Dennis, recounts flying the support plane for Linda
Finch, when she reenacted the Earhart flight.
• February 12, at 1:30pm, Author lecture: Elgin Long, author of
The Mystery Is Solved, a book on Earhart’s last flight, will discuss
the search project.
• February 26: Special teacher/ educator sessions 1 to 5pm. Hiller
invites teachers to bring their classes on a field trip. Hiller
has received grants, which provide teaching materials, and help
defray the cost of a field trip.
• March 2005: Nauticos Under Water Search Systems, which found the
Japanese fleet at Midway is planning a new expedition to discover
the true fate of Earhart. They plan to search a 1,000-mile section
of the Pacific Ocean.
Hiller Aviation Museum General Information
• Special tours are available for groups of 15 or more
• Site is available for meetings, dinners and receptions for up
to 524 people.
• Flight Shop has aircraft photos, books, models and other aviation
related gift items for aviation and flight history buffs and other
• Museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Cost: $8/adults, $5/youth,
free for children under seven.
• Contact info: 601 Skyway Road, at San Carlos Airport, telephone
650/654-0200, online at www.hiller.org.
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