One of the most engaging attractions in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the Carolinas Aviation Museum. Situated next to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, The Carolinas Aviation Museum preserves the Carolina tradition of flight with an impressive collection of aircraft, commercial and military, spanning the history of powered flight. Emphasizing STEM education with powerful exhibits, including an interactive flight simulator, the museum is sure to be a favorite Carolina experience for the whole family.

The Carolinas Aviation Museum was founded in 1992 as a volunteer-led effort to collect and curate aviation materials specific to the Carolinas’ auspicious aviation history. Today, with the purpose of supporting STEM education in the Carolinas, the museum is a proud affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, offering field trips and extracurricular STEM programs for children in the Charlotte area focusing on aviation technology, safety, and aerodynamics.

A History of Flight

The museum’s exhibits include civil, commercial, and military planes as well as helicopters. The museum’s 50,000 visitors a year are encouraged to touch and explore airplanes from the past, from the Sopwith Camel, the most significant British fighter aircraft of WWI, to the AV-8B Harrier Jump Jet, which was extensively used in the Gulf War. The history of aviation is an interactive experience at the Carolinas Aviation Museum.

The star attraction is “Miracle on the Hudson,” U.S. Airways Flight 1549, which was successfully landed on the Hudson River in 2009 by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger after the aircraft hit a flock of Canadian geese and both engines failed. In addition to aircraft and interactive experiences, the museum also houses an impressive collection of photographs, books, uniforms, periodicals, and other aviation-themed media.

In 2018, the museum opened the flight simulator, partnering with American Airlines to give visitors an interactive experience. The immersive experience gives the feeling of flying a plane while you sit in the cockpit surrounded by plane sounds, taking flying lessons from one of the Carolina Aviation Museum’s flight instructors as he explains takeoff and landing procedures. Participants will learn what to do in the event of an engine failure, and they can test their eye-hand coordination, an experience sure to ignite the imagination of the young and the young-at-heart.

Experience Where Flight Began

More recently, in partnership with the City of Charlotte and Charlotte International Airport, the Carolinas Aviation Museum is being redesigned and will be closed until 2022. Until then, all the planes and gear will be stored and prepared for their new home, a high-tech location in Charlotte designed by the design firm Freeman Ryan Design. Until then, flight fans can join the mailing list of the Carolinas Aviation Museum and receive weekly emails with aviation-related activities for the whole family, including videos, weblinks, and questions to encourage learning.

Flight began in the Carolinas, and its history is preserved at the Carolinas Aviation Museum. But its future also is being cultivated by the museum with its educational outreach programs. Until the doors open again, consider donating to the Carolinas Aviation Museum and become a sponsor to the future of flight.


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