While it isn't the typical afternoon hike I take through green foliage and whispering Canyon breezes, I cinch up my grip tight locking elastic laces and meander on. Black asphalt and the stereotypical aircraft hangar rise from the El Paso desert with only a few small signs leading you to your final destination. Dedicated to collecting, storing, and displaying historic aircraft, the War Eagles Air Museum possesses a large and unique collection of World War II and Korean conflict era aircraft. Displays include literature, pictures, and models supporting the pilots, crews, and the airplanes themselves.
It is surprising that the vast majority of the aircraft found in this most excellent collection remain in flying condition. The aircraft are used not only for the enjoyment of the public but also in various education programs and exhibits. In addition to the airplanes, the museum also features an impressive collection of antique cars, jeeps, motorcycles, and other military vehicles. The entrance fee is five dollars and the tour is self-guided, a personal favorite guiding style of mine. (Some call it getting lost, I say tomato.)
A small balcony atop a couple flights of stairs provides a good vantage point to plan your tour. Having a free afternoon and being by myself I made sure to visit each display and each aircraft reading the provided information. A couple of the aircraft reminded me of the crop-dusters on our farm when I was a kid. I have to admit a couple of the other aircraft, even though they said they were flyable, made me question the sanity of the pilot who would attempt it. The walk is easy and you can visit the entire museum in an hour to two hours depending on how much reading you want to do.
One of my favorite exhibits is the museum's piper cub. This J3 is the oldest piper built airplane in the world that continues to fly. It sports a continental 40-5 engine, the engine boasts a whopping 40hp at 2500 RPM and a dry weight of 156 pounds. To give you a rough idea, that is about the same as my four-wheeler ATV. Although I have always dreamed of getting my pilots license and flying a piper cub into the Alaskan bush on the self-guided hunt, I must admit I was hoping for a little more horsepower than the ATV I drive around. Still, more World War II-era pilots received their initial flight training in piper cubs as opposed to any other plane.
Again, not my typical hike. I didn't have to worry about clean water and some elderly lady got a bit fresh with me when I attempted to rig up my hammock between a biplane and a GTO. Still, the features were beautiful and the walk was peaceful. For a brief moment, I went back in time to an era that I have always enjoyed reading about. As I mentioned, the museum focuses on World War II and Korean conflict era, however, I think you'll find a little bit on either side of those times to keep everyone in your party interested. Sometimes the beaten path still throws a few surprises your way and gives us opportunities to reunite with childhood dreams. Take a chance and visit a museum in your own backyard and by all means, if you're ever in El Paso Texas check out the War Eagles Air Museum.
Be happy, Be interested, Be engaged, and share your adventures!
BTW – Just up the road is an excellent 24-hr diner. They don’t serve Dutch oven cobbler, but don’t hold that against them.