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The Museum collection maintains many one-of-a-kind aircraft and research
and development experments in both fixed and rotor wing flight, to include
one of the largest helicopter collections in the world. The aircraft
display traces the history of Army Aviation from its beginning. The
significant aircraft on display start with the Army's first helicopter,
the R-4, through the current attack helicopter, the AH-64 Apache; as well
as a look at the development and employment of the light airplane.
In addition to the aircraft collection, the Museum maintains an extensive
The Army Aviation Museum Foundation, Inc.
The Army Aviation Museum Foundation, incorporated under the laws of the State of Alabama as a nonprofit orgranization, was formed on 9 March 1970. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a proper, permanent building to house and preserve the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, its memorabilia and artifacts. The museum serves to safeguard many one-of-a-kind aircraft and aviation related items, educate the aviation student and public, and generate an interest in and understanding of Army Aviation.
Over the past 20 years, the Museum Foundation has expanded to include over thirty board members and thousands of contributors. As a result of a concerted effort by these people, the Foundation was successful in raising $2.5 million from civic and social organizations, military units, local communities, industries, businesses, and individuals. Through the efferts of former Alabama Congressman William Dickinson, $2.5 million in matching Federal reprogrammed funds were obtained.
Construction based on the Foundation's plans began in March 1988 under the supervision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District. The present building completed and turned over to the U.S. Army in November 1989, represents the completion of Phase I, one of several phases to come, and a major attraction to the Wiregrass area.
History of Army Aviation
June 6, 1942 marked the beginning of light aviation as an organic part of the U.S. Army. Army light aviation consisted of "Piper Cub" type airplanes used for Field Artillery fire direction. Each artillery battalion was authorized two airplanes, two pilots, and one mechanic. The planes were used as aerial observation posts to adjust artillery fire.
In the fall of 1942 three L-4 "Piper Cub" aircraft took off from the deck of the aircraft carrier "USS Ranger" 40 miles from the North African coast to provide aerial observation for the direction of artillery fire support of the North African invasion.
The Army soon discovered that light airplanes provided an unequaled observation post and due to their high maneuverability, losses were almost nonexistent. By the end of the war they were being used in all theaters of operation and were performing several other missions in addition to directing artillery fire. The light aircraft were used to evacuate wounded, for courier service, for radion relay stations and as command liaison vehicles. Army Aviation had become a valuable part of the ground forces, but not yet considered a necessity.
Interest in the Army Aviation program decreased following World War II. The absolute necessity of having airborne observers directing artillery fire was made apparent with the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. The jagged, mountainous terrain of Korea made ground observation almost impossible and presented numerous other problems for troop and cargo transportation. As the war in Korea progressed, Army aircraft were called upon for additional missions such as battle field illumination and aerial photography. There were never enough Army aircraft or aviation personnel available for the rapidly expanding requirements. At this time a new type of aircraft, the helicopter, had reached the stage of technical development which made its use by the Army ground forces practical.
The rotary wing aircraft had capabilities of an airplane, such as relatively high speed and the ability to pass over obstacles encountered by land transportation vehicles. But more importantly, it also had the ability to land in an area not much larger than its own dimensions. As quickly as the helicopters could be manufactured and personnel trained, there were sent to Army units in Korea. The first helicopters sent to Korea were the small H-13 and H-23 aircraft.
As soon as they were available in 1952, larger cargo type helicopters such as the H-19, were sent into Korea. They provided a means of moving troops and equipment rapidly, as well as saving many lives by the fast evacuations of wounded from front line positions to rear area hospitals. This capability of medical evacuation was to become one of the mos useful aspects of the helicopter during this period.
Advances in rotor wing aircraft throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s indicated that aviation would be an invaluable asset in support of the Army's ground troops, in moving them, supplying them, and, with the development of the "gunship" concept, in protecting them. The versatility of the UH-1 "Huey" helicopter during the Vietnam Conflict proved this to be true. The concepts of Air Mobility and Air Cavalry became battle tested realities.
Advances in the helicopter design continued throughout the 1960s and the 1970s with scout vehicles such as the OH-6 and the OH-58, and "gunships" like the AH-1 "Cobra." Developments in both attack and utility helicopters in the 1980's have brought the latest technology into helicopter design and have provided state of the art airframes in the AH-64 "Apache" and the UH-60 "Blackhawk."
Early in 1983, Army Aviation
came into its own and was officially designated a separate and distinct
branch of the Army.
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