From the sky, it’s simply “1WF” — an FAA notation guiding pilots to the roughly 2,000-foot grass airstrip in Troy. On the ground, however, Historic WACO Field and Air Museum offers visitors much more than a place to land. Since 1997, the approximately 100-acre site, which now includes a library and museum, has upheld the legacy of the now-defunct WACO Aircraft Co.
“They were the largest manufacturer of civil aircraft in the country in the late ’20s and ’30s,” says Gretchen Hawk, the museum’s executive director. “The museum was started to keep that history alive.”
The museum hangar houses nine of the company’s historic planes, as well as a flight simulator and displays of World War II-era video footage. During warmer months, guests can even buy some airtime. Sunny, a reproduction of one of WACO’s classic designs, can take two adventurers at a time on a 30-minute tour.
“You are flying in an open cockpit biplane,” says Hawk. “It’s amazing. It’s noisy. It’s windy. It is awesome.”
WACO Field and Air Museum is among 16 stops on Ohio’s Aviation Trail, a nonprofit organization founded in 1981 to save one of the Wright brothers’ original bicycle shops in Dayton. Since then, the Aviation Trail has celebrated Ohio’s significance in the world of flight, developing a program that awards travelers who tour and get their passport stamped at seven of the 16 sites with a cute stuffed animal named Wilbear Wright.
Wapakoneta’s Armstrong Air and Space Museum, which opened its doors on the three-year anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s famous first steps, is home to the Gemini 8 capsule, two of Neil Armstrong’s space suits and the first plane he ever flew.
“Wapakoneta hasn’t changed too much since Neil was here as a boy. You can still see a lot of that fabric and it’s not taken away and moved to another community in a big city,” says Chris Burton, the museum’s executive director. “That’s true of most of these sites; you are in the same physical location or very, very close to where history happened.”
Visit aviationtrailinc.org for information.
ON THE TRAIL:
Armstrong Air & Space Museum: 500 Apollo Dr., Wapakoneta 45895
Aviation Trail Parachute Museum: 16 S. Williams St., Dayton 45402
Carillon Historical Park: 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton 45409
Champaign Aviation Museum: 1636 N. Main St., Urbana 43078
Grimes Flying Lab Foundation: 1652 N. Main St., Urbana 43078
Huffman Prairie Flying Field: Gate 16A off Route 444, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base 45433
Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center: Kauffman Avenue, near the Route 444 intersection, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base 45433
Historic WACO Field and Air Museum: 1865 S. County Rd. 25A, Troy 45373
National Aviation Hall of Fame: 1100 Spaatz St., Wright-Patterson Air Force Base 45433
National Museum of the United States Air Force: 1100 Spaatz St., Wright-Patterson Air Force Base 45433
Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum: 118 Woodland Ave., Dayton 45409
Wright “B” Flyer: Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport, 10550 Springboro Pike, Miamisburg 45342
Wright Brothers Memorial: Kauffman Avenue, near the Route 444 intersection, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base 45433
The Wright Cycle Co.: 16 S. Williams St., Dayton 45402
Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and Aviation Trail Visitor Center: 16 S. Williams St., Dayton 45402
Wright State University: 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy., Dayton 45435
Those who tour and get their passport stamped at a minimum of seven of these 16 locations receive a Wilbear Wright aviation teddy bear.