Airplanes aren’t just mere machines—they are interwoven with the fabric of our history over the past 100 years. And nowhere is that more apparent than at the Wings of History Air Museum in San Martin, which celebrates the “Golden Age of Aviation,” displaying restored and replica aircraft that are from the early to mid-20th century.
What to do here: The air museum is contained in several hangars adjacent to the South County airport, with one hangar devoted to some of the earliest aircraft, and another housing experimental models, with some that flew … and some that didn’t, like the prototype Simcopter, a bizarre cross between a car and a helicopter. There are also planes designed by greats like Burt Rutan and Volmer Jensen as well as homebuilt aircraft.
Most of the displays are clearly labeled with historic notes on their manufacture and significance. If you’re plane crazy, or even a little bit of a history buff, it’s a place where you could easily spend hours, if not days.
In the first hangar, you’ll find a full-scale replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane as well as a ¾ reproduction of the first warbird ever built, a World War I-era German plane called the Stahltaube (“Steel Dove”). On the grounds there are still more planes, including a real B-25 bomber that’s available for cockpit tours.
Why we like it: One of the great things about Wings of History is that it isn’t just about the planes. There are a wide variety of displays, some saluting early women pilots and astronauts, as well as historic photographs, vintage gear like uniforms and helmets, instruments, posters, altimeters, engines, propellers and more. Scale models of planes can also be found throughout the buildings.
And even more to like: Volunteers are always actively restoring planes and other items that have been donated, and still others work in the FFA-certified “prop shop,” which refurbishes wooden propellers both for the museum and for other aviation enthusiasts. You may see people working on these projects on Tuesdays and Thursdays; one of the most fascinating restorations in progress is that of a 1940 Security Airster, a folding-wing airplane thought to be the only one of its kind left, according to Wings of History board president Todd Minier. There’s also an extensive aviation library that is housed in the museum.
About the Wings of History Air Museum: This all-volunteer, nonprofit organization has dedicated itself for more than 40 years to the preservation and restoration of antique aircraft and displaying items from aviation history. Its volunteers include military veterans, NASA and Lockheed employees, and some who just love planes, said Minier: “And we’re always looking for more volunteers.”
Directions and phone: The air museum is located at 12777 Murphy Ave., San Martin. Take Highway 101 south to the San Martin Avenue exit; make first left onto Murphy Avenue and follow signs to the museum. Wings of History is open Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are usually one or two docents on hand to provide information and possibly a personal guided tour. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, volunteers and staff actively work in the restoration shop, propeller shop and the museum library, and on special projects.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6 to 12; children under 6 and military personnel are free. For group tours or custom tours, call 408-683-2290. For information, see www.wingsofhistory.org.