Thankfully, I grew up in a period after World War II when laws and regulations were at a minimum, and as long as we didn’t break big laws or infringe on other’s rights or property … we were free to experiment with life. Therefore, I began driving a car at 10 and learned to fly airplanes by 12, and by 14, I was flying all over Georgia by myself. It was also a magical time when World War II military planes from an Aeronca L-16 to P-51 Mustangs were plentiful and cheap, so I took advantage of every opportunity to fly a multitude of those great airplanes!

Through the years, I slowly went away from my first love of flying to discover many other wonderful and exciting aspects of life. Nevertheless, the vivid memories are always there ­– especially each time I drive down I-75 near Warner Robins, Ga. and see signs advertising the Museum of Aviation ( Though tempted many times, I had always kept going, until recently. I left I-75 and entered a magical world that took me back to those glorious and exhilarating times during my teens when I felt the freedom of climbing into the high blue skies behind the scream of the nearly 2,000 horsepower of a Rolls Royce Merlin in the nose of a P-51 Mustang!

The museum is located just 10 miles east of I-75 (exit 144) at the end of Russell Parkway on a section of Robins Air Force Base. The museum is the second largest U.S. Air Force museum in the U.S. It opened more than 30 years ago with only 20 finished airplanes, but now exhibits around 100 aircraft with more being restored. The museum also has more than 4,000 artifacts, 22 permanent displays and over 200,000 square feet of exhibit and education space spanning a century of flight.

Popular exhibits include the 14th Air Force Flying Tigers, the 483rd Bomb Group, the story of WWII Ace Brig. Gen. Robert L. Scott, the Korean War, the Tuskegee Airmen and the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment and Air Invasion of Normandy. The museum’s most notable aircraft is the SR-71A Blackbird, (the fastest plane in the world), but also inside is the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame that honors distinguished men and women who made significant contributions to aviation in the Peach State. In the same location, there is a Kid’s Zone for children to enjoy and the Jet Fuel Java and Aviation Gift Shop, where visitors can buy coffee and gifts.

Not too far away in the town of Warner Robins is a tasty eatery called Mike’s Hot Dogs and Hamburgers, which has been in business for more than 30 years. Believe me – the burgers are worth a visit! Phone: 478-328-7346.

Visitors find plenty to see and do at the Museum of Aviation. Learn more about our nation’s history, review all the exhibits, talk with the volunteers or just explore on your own through each of the buildings and around the grounds of historic airplanes. It is family-friendly and a great way to spend the day. It sure took me back to a wonderful time in my life!

Bill Vanderford can be reached at or at