Authentic Combat Aviation History Starts Here
Courage. Sacrifice. Ingenuity. Determination. The Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum (AZCAF) honors all of these qualities possessed by the military veterans who inspire our mission. Learn more about the AZCAF’s humble beginnings and how our museum has grown from a one-plane project to a one-of-a-kind collection and world-renowned attraction.
Volunteer-Built and Operated Since 1978
Our docents are some of the most knowledgeable combat aviation historians in the business. Seek out one of the “friendly white shirts” if you have questions or want to learn more about the aircraft, engines, parts, and gadgets engineered for combat. Many of our docents revel in sharing engaging stories about the heroes and ordinary folks alike who sacrificed so much to save the world from tyranny. For a chance to see up into the belly of one of our airplanes or watch an engine being replaced, ask a docent for a behind-the-scenes tour of the working mechanics hangar.
After you walk through our first museum hangar, walk across Bomber Alley to experience a rare working mechanics hangar. Here is where highly specialized mechanics keep our fleet of warbirds in extraordinary flying shape. Imagine what it’s like to find a spare part for a 1944 bomber. They’re not easy to find on the market, so we have a full machine shop where our artisans can shape new parts from raw materials. During your tour of the mechanics hangar, you’ll witness the best of the best keeping artisan traditions alive and passing down the knowledge to future generations.
The History of the Commemorative Air Force
In the jubilant days following the U.S.’s World War I and II victories, the proud fighters and bombers of the world’s most powerful aerial armada were abandoned as troops returned home. More than 300,000 planes were produced during the wars, but over time, few remained in existence — let alone in flying condition.
In 1951, five Texans pooled their resources and bought a surplus P-40. Over the next decade, they noticed historic combat planes were becoming harder to find, so they set out on a serious search to save the aircraft that remained. During their search, they began performing at air shows, where they discovered the public was just as interested in these warbirds as they were.
Noticing the growing interest in their group, the men chartered the unit as a non-profit organization in 1961 and started inviting other veterans to join. Since then, CAF has collected more than 165 classic American and foreign combat planes, many of which are the last remaining warbirds of their kinds. The CAF now has dozens of self-supporting, volunteer-driven units around the world, made up of more than 13,000 members from all walks of life who come together with one common goal: to preserve the military’s aircrafts and history.
Bringing Aviation History to Arizona
The Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum started with a “sentimental journey.” In 1977, a small group of dedicated folks broke ground at Falcon Field and in 1978, the Arizona Wing became the 10th unit of the Commemorative Air Force. Within a few short weeks, Phoenix resident Mike Clarke donated a rare Boeing B-17G to the unit. Over the next five years, the colonels of the AZCAF wandered through countless junkyards and crash sites looking for parts to restore the plane to new condition, christening it “Sentimental Journey.”
This project sparked the idea to build a more permanent facility that could be used to preserve and showcase unique warbirds like “Sentimental Journey.” After months of searching, Mesa’s municipal airport, Falcon Field, was chosen as the new site for the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum.
Since opening our doors in 1978, countless visitors from around the world have descended on Mesa for this one-of-a-kind experience. Their interest has helped grow the museum into one of the most treasured attractions in the Valley, and with the support of our volunteer staff, we are proud to be the home of one of the largest Commemorative Air Force units in the world.
Together, we look forward to preserving and restoring authentic military aviation history, remembering the heroes who saved our country, and educating people on the hard lessons learned during perilous times in America’s past.
Want to honor yesterday’s military aviation and pave the way for the generations of tomorrow?
Join the 13,000+ Commemorative Air Force members who are helping educate the young and old about war history, heroic airmen and women, and the inspiring planes that saved the world.