Learning About Aviation History at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading
Tucked away on the backside of the little-used Reading Regional Airport is one of Pennsylvania’s largest airplane museums: The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum. According to the museum’s website, it is home to more than seven dozen aircraft, ranging from a 1928 Elias Aircoupe to a 2011 Mitchel Wing A10D. However, the majority of the aircraft’s planes come from the 1940s and 1950s which makes it a great place for those who are fascinated by World War II aviation.
The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum was started in the 1980s with the primary goal of acquiring and restoring one of the world’s few remaining P61 Black Widow aircraft. The P61 that is on display at the museum crashed into Mount Victoria in Papua New Guinea in 1945 and was salvaged in 1989. Since then, it has been undergoing restoration at the museum with the hope of returning it to the air. Currently, there are only four P61s remaining in the world, none of which are airworthy.
The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum moved into their current space at the Carl A. Spaatz Field in 1988, and have been growing ever since they acquired their first plane, a DC3, in 1981. Today, their collection is so large that it spills out of the very crowded main hangar and only the tarmac outside. Even then only about half of the museum’s collection is on display at any one time.
Guided tours of the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum are offered during operating hours. These tours allow visitors to see all of the aircraft currently on display both inside and outside the museum’s hangar. Tours of the facility last an hour to an hour and a half and cover as many planes as they can during that time.
Outside of the hangar are a dozen newer model aircraft that the museum owns, including a helicopter. While some of these aircraft are in pretty rough shape, it is a great introduction to the museum’s collection.
Inside the hangar is where the museum’s main collection is located. Depending on when you visit, the hangar can be very, very full. However, if the hangar doors are open or aircraft are out on display at one of the many yearly airshows that the museum participates in, it can be a bit easier to move.
Make sure to watch your head at all times when walking through here as clearances can be low. While the space is completely flat, the lack of room in the hangar might also make it a bit difficult for those with certain disabilities to move around and see some of the airplanes up close.
There is a bit of signage next to each airplane that gives a bit of information about each model, but guides do a good job covering the basics of each model. One of my favorites parts of the tour was when my guide would point out famous people who flew in similar planes, such as President George W. Bush, John Denver, and Charles Lindbergh.
Along the walls of the museum were small items, such as model airplanes, military uniforms, and airplane engines. I especially enjoyed looking at the large engines and comparing them to those that you find in your average car.
In addition to the standard guided tours, the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum offers several interesting opportunities to get visitors a more in-depth look at the aircraft.
The first is the opportunity to fly in either a Boeing Stearman N2S-1 “Kaydet” biplane or in an SNJ-4B “Texan”. Both of these planes were used as training aircraft during World War II and give you the chance to ride high above Reading in a historic aircraft. Rides are offered one weekend a month between May and October and must be scheduled in advance.
The second opportunity to get a better feel for the aircraft is to visit during the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s World War II Weekend. Held the first weekend in June, the event typically features historic planes from all over the country, a paratrooper jump, live music, and the chance to ride in a variety of historic airplanes. Check out the museum’s event page for information on this fantastic event.
Overall, the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania, is a great destination for lovers of military history and historic aircraft. The tours provide a great amount of information without boring visitors and offer a chance to get up close to many rare airplanes from the last century.
Note: My visit to the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum was hosted by the museum. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Mid-Atlantic Air Museum
Hours: Daily: 9:30a-4p
Cost: Adults: $8, Children: $3
Address: 11 Museum Drive