Pros: Planes, planes, planes...
Cons: Somewhat small, out of the way
I don't know any kid who doesn't love things that go. Cars, boats, trains, planes -- take your pick, they're all sure to spark a little imagination in any little mind (and Dads always like these things too). When I was recently looking for things to do in Dallas when Sunday dawns too wet to be outside, I was a little worried because Dallas doesn't really have quite the kind of museums or attractions that little guys really like. But then I found out that Dallas has several small flight museums, and I thought that might be just the kind of stuff that would keep a young mind engaged and entertained, and so we headed up to the north side of town to check out the Cavanaugh Flight Museum.
What's Up at Cavanaugh...
What's up? I'll tell you what's up. Four hangars of airplane gawking, that's what's up.
You start (and end) your tour in the museum's gift shop, then it's through the back door and into the first hangar!
The first hangar is really the best of the lot. That's where you'll find the oldest planes in the collection -- planes like the Sopwith Camel and the Fokker Triplane. Yes, I am a confirmed Peanuts fan, and these two planes can't help but bring up a gazillion memories of comic strips filled with everyone's favorite Beagle flying his Sopwith Camel over France during World War I, only to be shot from the sky by the marauding Red Baron...
There's also some small trainers here, a small homebuilt kit aircraft, and a couple of World War II birds.
Directly across the breezeway is the next hangar. It's weird the way you walk through a sort of break room with a couple vending machines and easy chairs. Very UN-museum like, but kind of cool in its casualness, which is something I like about this museum.
In the hangar are most of the museum's best World War II aircraft, including one of my favorite fighters -- the Messerschmidt Me-109. They've also got a good-sized bomber in there (a Mitchell, I think), and some various and sundry pieces of military equipment, including a Jeep, and a couple of breakaway fuel tanks, used to increase the effective range of both fighters and bombers during the war.
All the aircraft are wonderful to look at, but it's often hard to get a realistic perspective on what it's like to be the guy in the pilots seat. You can't get in or even climb up to peer into any of the aircraft. It's very different than the kind of "up close and personal" exhibits that you find at bigger aviation museums -- there's no peeks inside cargo holds or close-up views of instrument panels.
Over in the other two hangars are some oddities. There was a small, private jet, that looks like what you'd see at any private airfield anywhere, and there were some aircraft torn apart for renovation. This is kind of cool because you can see the planes with their skins off or the cowls up. For example, they have a Corsair that's got most of its nose in pieces right now.
Sitting out on the tarmac between the hangars are a few more aircraft, including a couple of attack fighter jets that look like they're probably from the Viet Nam era.
Up, Up, and BOMBS AWAY!
Cavanaugh Flight Museum is different from most aircraft museums that I've visited because the planes are mostly fully restored and fully flight ready. They're not just pretty faces.
In fact, you can go up for a ride in a few of the planes, and the museum often advertises itself as "Flying Warbirds". Flights aren't cheap though. A half hour in a Stearman trainer will set you back $175 while a flight in the AT-6 will run you $250. Not cheap, but I'm sure the experience beats the hell out of any theme park ride you'll ever go on.
The Cavanaugh Flight Museum is located on the Dallas suburb of Addison, about 15 minutes north of downtown. From downtown, take either the North Dallas Tollway or I-35E north. The tollway is faster, I-35E is cheaper. Either way, you exit at Beltline, then turn turn onto Addison Road and follow the signs into the air park. Addison Road is about 1/2 mile west of the tollway, or about 3 to 4 miles east of I-35E.
Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for kids. Official info is on their web site: www.cavanaughflightmuseum.com
Other Nearby Flights of Fancy...
There's no big aircraft museums in the Dallas area, but there are some interesting smaller ones. If you're already in the area and visiting the Cavanaugh Flight Museum, you might also like to visit the C.R. Smith Museum and the Frontiers of Flight Museum. Don't let your hopes soar too high -- none of these places are classic museums like the National Air and Space Museum -- but they all present an interesting perspective on aviation history.
The C.R. Smith Museum is a corporate flight museum -- it tells the story of American Airlines. It's a beautiful facility, built just 10 years ago near the DFW International Airport. Naturally, the story is slanted towards commercial aviation being the savior of the modern world, and American Airlines as being the greatest airline since the invention of the wing, but that's okay -- it's still an interesting place, and best of all, admission is free (oh, how that word makes my heart flutter!).
Since it's located at Dallas Love Field, I figured that the Frontiers of Flight Museum would be the Southwest Airline equivalent of the C.R. Smith Museum, but such is not the case. It's more of a generalist look at aviation history. It's small, but it's pretty cool, and it's cheap (the secondmost sweetest word in the english language) at $2 for adults and $1 for kids.
All in all, it's a pretty cool collection of some 30+ planes, heavy on the World War II vintage. The in-depth information is rather shallow in the depth department, and there's not enough aircraft here to truly represent a good perspective on aviation history in general, or even on military aviation more specifically. What's here is good though, and it's interesting, and it's kept in an amazingly clean, orderly facility. All in all, I give the Cavanaugh high marks for dedication and for presenting a pretty good show.
The Cavanaugh is too small to be among my top picks for things to do in the Dallas area, but it's fun, and pretty cool. If you're looking for some new ideas for things to do in the Dallas area, give it a shot. It's worth an hour or two anyway...