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The Heritage Flight Museum is a small but interesting museum in the similarly small but interesting town of Bellingham, about 90 minutes north of Seattle.

If you're keen to see all the regional aviation museums, you should definitely include this as a stop on your tour.

 
 
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Heritage Flight Museum, Bellingham

There's Plenty for the Plane Buff in the Seattle Area
 

The Heritage Flight Museum is on the left as you drive along the access road to Bellingham Airport.

 

 

The Heritage Flight Museum in Bellingham is a smaller museum; like many of the other profiled museums it has grown from the vision and passion of a single man - in this case former Apollo astronaut and Air Force Major General, Bill Anders.

It has an eclectic range of planes, including a cold war F-89J Scorpion which amazingly was a plane flown by Anders himself, many decades before.

Many of the planes are in operational flying status, and on the third Saturday of each month some of the planes are flown.

A tour of this site does not take very long to complete, but for the true aviation history enthusiast, it is definitely worth visiting.

The Many Different Aviation Themed Attractions Around Seattle

Seattle is one of the birthplaces of the US aviation/aerospace industry, along with obvious other places such as Kitty Hawk and some not quite so obvious places such as Wichita.

Whether for this reason or purely by accidental chance, the greater Puget Sound region has a treasure trove of aviation themed attractions and activities.  This eleven part series details many of them.

0.  Aviation Themed Attractions in the Seattle Area - intro/overview

1.  Museum of Flight, Seattle

2.  Boeing Factory Tour & Future of Flight, Everett

3.  Flying Heritage Collection, Everett

4.  Historic Flight Foundation, Everett

5.  Museum of Flight Restoration Center, Everett

6.  Heritage Flight Museum, Bellingham

7.  Fly in a glider/sailplane/balloon

8.  Special Events

9.  Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, OR

10.  Other Regional Aviation Museums

Heritage Flight Museum, Bellingham

Just over an hour further north up I-5 (ie after Everett) is the lovely medium sized town of Bellingham (pop 80,000).  Best known as the lower/mainland terminal for the Alaska Marine Highway (ie ferry) system, and as the home of Western Washington University, this charming town boasts another small warbird collection at its airport on the north side of the city.

Heritage Flight Museum Hangar

A view inside the main hangar at Bellingham's Heritage Flight Museum.


The airport is impressively named the Bellingham International Airport, but the 'international' refers to puddle jumping flights that travel the 20 miles north (or west) to Canada and the airport is tiny.

The Heritage Flight Museum is on the left as you drive in to the airport.  Entering takes you first into an exhibit room that has a curious pot pourri of exhibits spanning a broad miscellany of things to do with flying and rocketry.

Some of the items on display are not real - for example, there is what appears to be a wing section from the Enola Gay, but it is a replica.

One can then walk out into the first of two hangars to see the hangared planes, and you can then access the second hangar from the first hangar, with additional planes in it.

Depending on when you are there and what is scheduled for the day, some of the planes may be outside the public area of the museum, and instead in the restricted 'live' part of the airport on the 'hot flight line', because they are expected to be flying in the near future (or recently have been flying).  This means you don't get up close and personal with those planes.

Planes on the 'Flight Line' at Bellingham.  In the foreground is an A-1, in the middle distance is a T-6D and in the background is a P-51.


The Heritage Flight Museum has thirteen planes, all American, and primarily of the post WW-2 era, and an H-13 Sioux helicopter, made famous in M*A*S*H.

Outside and around the corner from the second hangar is an F-89J jet fighter of the cold war era that has been partially restored, something which promises to be an ongoing major project.  Amazingly, this is a plane which the museum's founder had formerly flown, himself.

The museum does not own this plane, but has it on loan from the GSA (the plane's owner) and as a result will not be allowed to restore it to full flying condition.

In addition, there is a real Link trainer (the fore-runner of today's much more sophisticated airplane simulators) an M3A1 scout car and even a Jeep.

A restored Link trainer at the Bellingham Heritage Flight Museum.


Among other interesting things, they have a networked pair of computers running Flight Simulator, with special scenery for the Bellingham area both present day and as it was as a US Army Air Corps base in WW2.  The software also features the planes that are in the museum's collection, and visitors can use the Flight Simulator software to 'fly' the museum's planes in the Bellingham area, either singly or together with other visitors at the same time.

The two computers have big widescreen monitors, throttle quadrants (with three levers for throttle, pitch and mixture), joystick (of course) and rudder pedals too, helping to make the cockpit experience more realistic.

They also participate in an internet connected Flight Simulator game club.  Details here.

In addition to seeing the planes parked, they have Fly Days on the third Saturday of every month, when some of their fleet take to the air (and my sense is they do this some weekends, too).

This is another airplane collection that grew out of the vision of a single man, although in this case it is more of a shared family vision.  It was founded in 1996 by Bill Anders, or to be more formal, Major General William A Anders, who is best known as being one of the Apollo 8 astronauts, the mission that was the first flight to the moon in 1968 (but which of course did not land on the moon).  He is joined in the museum's leadership by his sons Greg and Alan.

The museum is currently in temporary quarters, while they search for a suitable permanent home.  It is open Thursday - Saturday, and admission is a suggested/requested $5 donation per person.  There's a rather subtle jar on the side of the reception counter in which one should place one's donation, and the staff don't make any reference to its existence at all.

This was an interesting and unassuming collection of planes and memorabilia.  My sense is that most of the attendees are 'friends and family'.

Planes and Other Exhibits

The following planes and other exhibits can be seen at the museum :

  • P-51 Mustang

  • A-1 Skyraider

  • PT-19 Cornell

  • PT-13 Stearman

  • SNJ-4

  • T-6D Texan

  • T-6F Texan

  • O-1/L-19 Birddog

  • O-2 Skymaster

  • L-13 Grasshopper

  • H-13 Sioux

  • F-89J Scorpion

  • Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major

  • Link Trainer

  • M3A1 Scout Car

  • GPW Jeep

For full details, see their website.

 

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Originally published 25 March 2011, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 
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