We’ve all driven past Dover Air Force Base on Coastal Highway and have probably noticed the sign for the Air Mobility Command Museum, adjacent to the runways. You can’t miss the vast number of giant vintage aircraft parked on an enormous lot.
But have you ever had enough curiosity to take a look at it?
The Command Museum is a treasure of the US Air Force Museum System, with a mission to serve the public and the Air Force’s educational, aviation, scientific and historical mission. Its WWII Hangar 1301 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, and houses several priceless aircraft that wow visitors, whether you’re an aviation buff or not.
And no wonder! You can spend an entire day meandering through the museum with over 30 retired military aircraft and historic displays. Guided tours are hosted by volunteers who are just as interesting as the aircraft. Docents include retired USAF aviation engineers, welders, mechanics, restoration specialists and more – all with a passion for Air Force and aviation innovations.
The Air Mobility Command is a division of the Air Force that has been responsible for countless missions transporting key military personnel and dignitaries, cargo for troops worldwide, military vehicles and supplies, ammunition and fuel tanks for fighter jets.
Since WWII, the Air Transport Command has also been responsible for delivering or air dropping medical supplies (including one mission to France to deliver more than 3,500 pounds of whole blood for emergency supplies during an invasion.
Several humanitarian airlifts by the Air Force have been conducted as well during the Korean and Vietnam wars and other conflicts. (Remember the 2021 airlift of thousands of civilians from Afghanistan?)
Learn about the “ABCs” of aircraft model prefixes (A for attack, B for bomber, C for cargo, KC for in air refueling and VC for transport of key personnel and other dignitaries for example). Visitors can wander around the airfield and tour an impressive array of retired aircraft, some which have been used in countless conflicts, and some that have transported vice presidents, first ladies, Queen Elizabeth and other notable travelers.
The VC-9C on site, known often as Air Force Two has been the official airplane for several modern day vice presidents, first ladies and other world leaders. It has even become Air Force One when it’s been necessary to land at smaller airports across the globe
Asked about the most popular aircraft or feature to museum visitors, restoration chief and tour guide Les Polley explains, “Definitely either the VC-9C (Air Force Two), but also the massive C5-A that can transport hundreds of troops or large military equipment such as tanks and other military vehicles.”
But the “granddaddy of aircraft,” as he puts it, is the B-17, probably the most well-known bomber used extensively throughout WWII. The one owned by the museum inside Hanger 130, it commands immediate attention. Meticulously maintained to remind visitors of the pivotal role these bombers played in our nation’s history, people are wowed, especially by the tiny and vulnerable bombardier turrets – one is even under the belly of the plane, exposed and crammed. Docents well-versed in the various missions and mechanics of the craft obviously enjoy sharing the wealth of information.
Another favorite is the C-121 Constellation – an aircraft that’s development originally was largely backed by Howard Hughes for commercial transport. Eventually, the famous Constellation series of craft were used by commercial airlines, but the military used the C-121 for several reasons. They were used as troop carriers, airborne early craft warnings (such as over Vietnam) to alert the Air Force of activity they’d be facing), as well as potential MIG attacks and to warn pilots if they were straying over Chinese territory.
The particular C-121 that was donated to the AMC was interestingly once a restaurant and banquet facility in Penndel, PA, where it sat as an local icon for many years.
The wealth of military and cultural history contained in the AMC Museum is just a wild blue yonder, 40 minute drive north of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. There’s even a flight simulator popular with kids, and if you are fortunate enough to go when it isn’t too crowded, you have the opportunity to witness USAF cargo and other planes take off and land right from the air control tower, complete with live transmission of the Dover Base’s own control tower.
The AMC Museum is open 9 am – 4 pm, Wednesday through Sunday except federal holidays (except Veterans Day, of course). Directions are simple: Exit 91 of the Coastal Highway.
Admission and parking are FREE, and there is an interesting gift shop inside the hangar, perfect for Air Force enthusiasts and kids who love model airplanes. For Delaware by Day adventurers, you don’t want to miss the AMC Museum.