Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site | HANGAR 1 MUSEUM AND VISITOR CENTER

View of Hangar 1 from the observation deck near the parking lot

View of Hangar 1 from the observation deck near the parking lot

The Visitor Center for Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site is located in Hangar 1, the closet of the two hangars to the parking area. The Visitor Center is in the room you first enter and consists of nothing more than a small Ranger desk and a few information panels (if you can’t find any Rangers here, they are in one of the hangars or on the airfield grounds). Park brochures are available, and embedded into the wall is an HD TV on which you can watch a 5-minute introductory film about the Tuskegee Airmen. It gives basic information only, so if you skip it and watch the excellent half-hour film in Hangar 2, you won’t be missing much. Just push a button to start it.

Visitor Center in Hangar 1

Visitor Center in Hangar 1

The rest of the building is taken up with the exhibits of the Hangar 1 Museum, one of two museums in the park. Hangar 1 focuses on the inception of the Tuskegee Airmen and the training programs for all Airmen—pilots, mechanics, nurses, and ground crew. Everyone involved was considered a Tuskegee Airmen, not just the pilots (the name Tuskegee Airmen wasn’t coined until the 1950s).

Information panel at Hangar 1 describes training at Moton Field

Information panel at Hangar 1 describes training at Moton Field

Ground crew and engine exhibit at Hangar 1

Ground crew and engine exhibit at Hangar 1

Cadets trained in Stearman PT-17 biplanes, aircraft that were tough enough to withstand the abuse of inexperienced pilots. A restored PT-17, as well as a restored J3 Piper Cub, are on display.

PT-17 on display at Hangar 1

PT-17 on display at Hangar 1

PT-17 on display at Hangar 1

PT-17 on display at Hangar 1

Piper Cub on display at Hangar 1

Piper Cub on display at Hangar 1

Behind the PT-17 is an interesting exhibit on how the wings of the airplane are constructed. Wooden frames are wrapped with fabric that is then coated with a chemical solution called dope. Dope causes the fabric to shrink and tighten around the frame, sealing out water as well. You can touch this exhibit to learn what the different stages of construction feel like.

Wing exhibit

Wing exhibit

Hangar 1 was built in 1941 during the initial stages of construction at Moton Field. In addition to being used for aircraft maintenance, offices for civil and military managers, flight debriefings, and record keeping were located around the inside perimeter of the hangar. A few these offices have now been restored with period furnishings and decorations. Upon entering a room an audio program begins that tells about its purpose. These rooms are not readily apparent as places you can visit because all that identifies them is a tiny sign printed on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper that hangs on a closed door. If you aren’t paying attention, you are likely to pass them by thinking they are National Park Service offices or other rooms that are closed to visitors.

The War Room, aka The Intelligence Office

The War Room, aka The Intelligence Office

Cadet Waiting Room

Cadet Waiting Room

Supply Room

Supply Room

Another room, the Tea Room, is accessed from outside the building. The Tea Room was a small lunchroom for personnel stationed on the airbase.

The Tea Room entrance on the outside of Hangar 1

The Tea Room entrance on the outside of Hangar 1

The Tea Room

The Tea Room

There is a lot to see in Hangar 1 for a military or aviation enthusiast. Plan to spend up to 1.5 hours in this museum, and that doesn’t include listening to the many oral-history audio programs. Old style telephones are located on desks and tables—pick up the phone, dial a number, and listen to an actual Tuskegee Airman tell you his or her story. Even for the typical visitor, I can’t see spending less than a half hour browsing the exhibits that spark interest.

Listen to interviews with Tuskegee Airmen on telephones placed throughout the museum

Listen to interviews with Tuskegee Airmen on telephones placed throughout the museum

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Last updated on February 21, 2020
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