The Air Zoo of Kalamazoo – 2004 Snapshot

Kalamazoo, Michigan has a couple of nice attractions . . . this post is about one of them.  

The SR-71B Blackbird trainer is a popular display

The SR-71B Blackbird trainer is a popular display

The Air Zoo of Kalamazoo was founded in 1977, and I visited it in 2004, a few month before I left Michigan for Colorado.  I had driven by it countless times during my trips to Illinois, but there was always a reason for saying “Next time!”  

We ended up making a trip just to go see it, and I am very glad we did.

Planes, rides, simulators, Space Shuttle simulators . . . it's got everything, and all done well.

Planes, rides, simulators, Space Shuttle simulators . . . it's got everything, and all done well.

It is the best airplane museum I ever visited.  No, it does not have hundreds of planes like Dayton’s Air Force Museum.  It does not have huge displays and important historical planes like Boeing’s museum in Seattle.  What it does have is amazing settings for planes that look ready to take off if only someone would give them a runway.

The displays are extremely well done, the planes are in excellent shape.  They must wax them daily.

The displays are extremely well done, the planes are in excellent shape. They must wax them daily.

The unique thing about this place are the murals surrounding the main display hall . . . including the one on the floor.  You heard me!  The floor is painted with features related to the type of planes that sit on it.  The modern jets are displayed on a representation of the deck of an aircraft carrier (complete with the bridge towering against one of the walls).  WWII planes are shown on what one imagines as a typical airfield, and older planes on what might be an open filed being used as a runway.

Notice the painted catapult under the Hornet. It's part of the aircraft carrier display setting.

Notice the painted catapult under the Hornet. It's part of the aircraft carrier display setting.

In the back you can see the mock aircraft carrier bridge.

In the back you can see the mock aircraft carrier bridge.

The higher perspective lets you see the floor a little better. Still, it's so polished it makes it hard to see the floor design, but you can see the grass drawn on the floor

The higher perspective lets you see the floor a little better. Still, it's so polished it makes it hard to see the floor design, but you can see the grass drawn on the floor

My favorite WWII display - The P47 Thunderbolt and the mural of the B-17 Kalamazoo Gal

My favorite WWII display - The P47 Thunderbolt and the mural of the B-17 Kalamazoo Gal

The North American B25J Mitchel . . . and Charley, the ground crew person, signaling Lance.

The North American B25J Mitchel . . . and Charley, the ground crew person, signaling Lance.

Lance’s mind should be on the mission, but instead he’s thinking of Rita, the gal he met at the pub last night.  Had he known he would not survive the mission, he might have refused to go . . . or maybe not.

Before people start asking me about Lance, I made that up.  

That's a replica of the Wright Flyier, and another overview of the main display hall.

That's a replica of the Wright Flyier, and another overview of the main display hall.

But the main attraction, at least for me, is the SR-71B . . . insomuch as an inert piece of metal can exude power, project presence, and fire the imagination, this plane comes through in spades.

Could it be? No one around the SR-71B . . . except for the fracking garbage can.

Could it be? No one around the SR-71B . . . except for the fracking garbage can.

By the way, except for two of the fifty-one (51) photographs in the SmugMug album, all these are taken with natural light.  Long exposures with my D100 mounted on a tripod.  First time I had tried that kind of shooting.  One of the museum staffers came over and asked me if I was a professional.  My spirit soared, but only until I found out he had to ask because while the public can take personal pictures, you have to get permission to shoot for a paying project.  

We had gotten there early, and there were not many people there yet, and the guy said it’s no problem using the tripod because of the small number of people, but to try and get done before the crowds picked up.  He was a very nice guy.

There is another hanger with more straight-forward aircraft displays.

The Corsair.  When I was young I liked this aircraft without knowing anything about it.

The Corsair. When I was young I liked this aircraft without knowing anything about it.

The staff at this museum do restorations for other museums, and are an affiliate of the Smithsonian.  Planes are lent and borrowed, so I cannot guarantee all the planes in my gallery will be there.  The Air Zoo website lists the planes they have now, and all but a couple I saw are still there.  A few new ones that were not there when I visited have taken their place.  I think all the “main” ones are still there.  Last year they expanded their main display area.  Hope I’ll have another opportunity to visit them.

The Grumman Tigercat is another sleek-looking plane.

The Grumman Tigercat is another sleek-looking plane.

I can’t put all the photos in this post.  I’ll sound like a broken record, but those interested should go to the SmugMug gallery for all 51 photos.   

A portion of the second hanger

A portion of the second hanger

I highly recommend visiting the Air Zoo if you are in the area.  As I said, it remains the best air museum I’ve visited.   

Thank you for reading.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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7 Responses to The Air Zoo of Kalamazoo – 2004 Snapshot

  1. The museum does a lovely job at displaying their collection!

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Yes they do. The impressive thing is how good the planes look. I’ve been to museum that are interesting and worthwhile, but often the planes look like they have seen better days (most of them have). And some of the restoration efforts don’t match the original very well.

      Not these guys; everything smacks of very high quality.

      Like

  2. 96arley says:

    WOW, those are amazing, I’ve been to a few air museums but I think I’m going to have to add this on to my wish list :)

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Well worth the visit. I plan to go back when I’m out that way again. They expanded their display area, and I want to see what they did.

      Thanks for visiting.

      Like

  3. Anita Mac says:

    Nice display – love the vintage aircraft.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Project 313 – Post No. 285 | Disperser Tracks

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