The Air Zoo holds many historical and rare aircraft, including the world's fastest air-breathing aircraft, the SR-71B Blackbird. Many of its antique planes are airworthy. Among its other attractions are a 180-degree theater that projects a 4-D simulation of a B-17 bombing mission during World War II; and various amusement rides, including flight simulators of a rocket trip to Mars, U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornets, a stunt biplane, a hot air balloon, and more.
The Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum was founded in 1977 by Sue and Pete Parish, "dedicated to preserving and displaying historical and military artifacts and to serving as a research and educational facility for this country and abroad." The doors opened on November 18, 1979, to great local acclaim, and the museum quickly developed into one of the 10-largest nongovernmental aviation museums in the United States.
In 1994, the Restoration Center was added, allowing the museum to restore old aircraft to working order.
In early 1999, the moniker "Air Zoo" was adopted, along with plans for a major renovation. On April 25, 2003, construction began on a new 120,000-square-foot (11,000 m2) facility that doubled the museum's size and added flight simulators, amusement rides, Smithsonian Institution exhibitions, character actors, and a 4-D theater that combines 3-D films with special effects such as rocking chairs and plumes of smoke to simulate anti-aircraft fire.
The new facility opened in April 2004. It holds the world's largest hand-painted indoor mural: "Century of Flight", by aviation artist Rick Herter, a 25,000-square-foot (2,300 m2) tribute to the history of flight in the main entrance.
Across the hall is the 168-foot (51 m) "Night to Day" mural by Miriel Williams. There is also a computer-generated background on an adjacent wall.
In June 2007, the Michigan Space & Science Center opened in the old building (East Campus). The building featured World War II aircraft, several artifacts from the defunct Jackson Space Center, and more.
On October 1, 2011, the Air Zoo expanded its Main Campus again, moving everything from the East Campus into the new 50,000-square-foot addition. Half of this new expansion(known as the "East Wing") is devoted to the Space Theme, while the other half of the add-on includes World War II aircraft. The East Campus is now being used as the Restoration Center, which is noted for its work on aircraft including a Douglas Dauntless, a Sopwith Camel, and the newest project: An FM-2 Wildcat that had been lying at the bottom of Lake Michigan for 68 years.
Airplanes on display
|Manufacturer||Model||Popular Name||On Loan From|
|Beech||T-34||Mentor||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|Bell||AH-1J||SeaCobra (HueyCobra)||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|Cessna||L-19||Bird Dog||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|Curtiss (Replica)||Curtiss Model D Pusher||N/A||N/A|
|Curtiss||XP-55||Ascender||National Air and Space Museum/Smithsonian Institution|
|Douglas||C-47||Skytrain / GooneyBird / Dakota||N/A|
|Eastern GM (Grumman)||FM-2||Wildcat||N/A|
|Grumman||F-11A||Tiger||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|Grumman||F-14A||Tomcat||National Museum of Naval Aviation|
|Grumman||TF-9J||Cougar||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|Hispano (Messerschmitt)||HA-1112-M1L C.4K-100||Buchon||N/A|
|Homebuilt||F4U||Corsair (1/2 scale)||N/A|
|Homebuilt (Lockheed)||P-38||Lightning (60% replica)||N/A|
|Homebuilt (Murphy)||N/A||Renegade Spirit||N/A|
|Homebuilt (Pereira)||X-28A||Air Skimmer (Osprey)||N/A|
|Homebuilt (Wolf)||N/A||Boredom Fighter||N/A|
|Howard||GH-2||Nightingale||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|Laister-Kauffmann||TG-4A||Trainer Glider||Another Organization|
|Lockheed||F-104C||Starfighter||National Museum of the U.S. Air Force|
|Lockheed||P-80A||Shooting Star||National Museum of the U.S. Air Force|
|Lockheed||SR-71B||Blackbird||National Museum of the U.S. Air Force|
|Martin (Brit. Elec.)||B-57B||Canberra||National Museum of the U.S. Air Force|
|McDonnell Douglas||F-4E||Phantom||National Museum of the U.S. Air Force|
|McDonnell Douglas||F/A-18A||Hornet||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|Mikoyan-Gurevich||MiG-15||Fagot (NATO designation)||N/A|
|Mikoyan-Gurevich||MiG-21||Fishbed (NATO designation)||N/A|
|Naval Aircraft Factory||N3N||Yellow Peril||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|North American||AT-6G||Texan||Private Individual|
|North American||B-25H 43-4899||Mitchell||N/A|
|North American||F-86F||Sabre||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|North American||P-51D||Mustang (Winter Only)||Private Individual|
|North American||Boilerplate Gemini Test Vehicle||El Kabong||National Air & Space Museum/Smithsonian Institution|
|Piasecki||HUP-3||Retriever||National Museum of Naval Aviation|
|Piasecki||UH-25||Mule||National Museum of Naval Aviation|
|Schweizer||LNS-1 (TG-2)||Trainer Glider||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|Sopwith||F.1||Camel (fuselage only)||Private Individual|
|Sun||Standard G Ratio 4:1||Hang Glider||N/A|
|Timm||N2T-1||Tutor||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|Travel Air||Type-R||Mystery Ship||Private Individual|
|Vultee||BT-13||Valiant||National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|WACO (Ford)||CG-4A||Hadrian (British name)||N/A|
|Wright||N/A||Flyer (Replica)||Gilmore Car Museum|
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (February 2009)|
- Colleen Burcar, Gene Taylor. Michigan Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff. p. 136.
- O'Leary, Michael. "New Aviation Museum prepares for takeoff", Air Classics, April, 2004, retrieved December 1, 2006.
- Prichard, James. "The sky's the limit for museum mural", The Associated Press, March 21, 2004, retrieved December 1, 2006.
- Prichard, James. "New Interactive Aviation Museum Has Rides", The Associated Press Online, May 1, 2004, retrieved December 1, 2006.
- "Expanded Kalamazoo Air Zoo prepares for takeoff", The Oakland Press, March 27, 2004, retrieved December 1, 2006.