Not many know of this gem of a museum located just ten minutes right behind the busy Los Angeles Airport. If you are visiting, live here or are simply out for a long transit or layover, this is certainly a worthy stop if you don’t want to venture too far out from LAX. I am surprised the airport itself isn’t doing much to promote this space, which is truly a treasure trove of aviation and space history and general knowledge.
The building is pretty unassuming and resembles nothing close to any of the museums the city is known for. In fact, it is situated in an industrial complex where other flight service businesses are located so if you are looking for a big model plane or some other signage outside then you will definitely get lost. Follow the directions on your map to the t and you will find the spot.
Once you enter you know you are in the right place though as all the airline paraphernalia makes an appearance. A receptionist will possibly welcome you at the front desk area and give you a quick lowdown of what’s around. There is no specific organization to the space as such so you might want to keep track of the order in which you are visiting each room.
The museum is almost like one large floor level building split into multiple smaller rooms. As you walk along you will notice that some rooms seem set up for a presentation with chairs laid out and they do actually host speaker sessions so you might want to look into that if of interest. There is no map and no arrows giving you a route to follow so it’s pretty much a free for all after you enter here.
All of the exhibit areas seem stuck in the 80s at most and there isn’t much in terms of the use of technology or even interactive methods to get your attention. There is, however, a lot of information that anybody would take interest in. If you are an aviation geek though, this museum will feel like a goldmine. I spent well over an hour here and met another couple that had already been in there for an hour.
There is a space exploration section filled with all kinds of fun facts and historic achievements, there is a room full of model planes and posters and ads from the glory days of flying and then there is this larger open space that forms the main area of the museum where there is a timeline of aviation history and some of the highlights over the decades.
This room also holds an exhibit on the first five airlines to first begin operations in the LAX airport and shows some of their staff uniforms, service utensils, inflight reading, etc. The wraparound windows provide a nice view of the LAX runway so you can see flights taking off and landing pretty clearly. They also have the radio on here so you can hear the live feed from the air traffic control tower.
The rooms further in are dedicated to air cargo fleets, airline uniforms, and other airline related items. I was impressed to see a small section dedicated to the flight services crew like ground staff and technicians, and their uniforms were on display as well. The museum also has a small library and while you cannot borrow books, you can reference them and also make copies of some of the material.
Its here that the arrangement of the museum gets confusing – the administrative offices of the museum staff are interspersed with the museum itself so there’s hesitation in entering this space but there are displays on the wall that are interesting and cover some of the earliest celebrities that flew to or from LAX. The staff didn’t mind but some signage to that effect would have been welcome.
There is an unannounced exit so you are clueless about whether this is the end of the museum or not, or you can loop around and head back into the main area again and leave as you entered. There certainly seemed to be several areas that could be converted to event spaces and host gatherings of large numbers if required. I’ll need to head back to one of their talks sometime.
You will also see a model airplane standing outside the museum, which is part of the exhibits and can be visited but a staff member needs to show you out. Again there was no signage on this and it was my request to a team member that had them accompanying me to the Douglas Commercial DC3 that was parked outside. Strongly suggest visiting it if you are interested as you can climb all the way in.
The parking and entrance here is free, though there is a suggested donation of $10. Restrooms are available too but I am unsure about wi-fi and there didn’t seem to be a café or food court onsite. While there is something simple and sweet about this little space, it also feels very bare bones and removed from this day and age. For the fact that it’s an aviation museum, it certainly feels terribly outdated.
Everyone that was visiting was surprised that this was located so close to the airport but nobody knew about it. I do wish they would do more with the space as there is so much potential for it but to cater to today’s audience, they will need to update their exhibits and displays, and give a first time visitor some sense of direction on viewing the area to take in all of the information laid out.
Definitely do visit if you are into all things airplanes and adjacent or if you are in the area and would like to give the space some love. They could certainly do with more exposure and online shout outs for a spot that holds such great information all under one roof. I am not necessarily an aviation nerd and I found all the nuggets here captivating enough to stay on for more than an hour!
If you’ve visited here, do let me know your experience in the comments. And if you do visit after reading this post and seeing the pictures here then do tag me on your social so I can see how your experience was. Enjoy!