On a recent history-themed tour of Whatcom County, I visited the Heritage Flight Museum in Bellingham, home to a collection of vintage aircraft and a bounty of colourful airborne tales.
The Heritage Flight Museum has been at the Bellingham International Airport since 2001 and is already bursting at its seams. It was founded in 1996 by Major General William Anders, who was an Apollo 8 astronaut and is credited for taking the groundbreaking Earthrise photo.
This striking image was called “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken” by photographer Galen Rowell.
Taken by Apollo 8 crewmember Bill Anders on December 24, 1968. File source: NASA.
“We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth” – Bill Anders
The collection of memorabilia at the museum has grown from World War I and World War II, to include Vietnam and Korean war items. The entrance area contains display cases and models, and once you pass the Earthrise and NASA exhibits toward the back of the room you can step into the hangar.
They have a flight simulator and little push-car style planes for the kids to enjoy, early blueprints of the Bellingham Airport, and an impressive roster of planes that they take up to the Abbotsford Airshow each year.
Our guide, Program Director Kate Simmons, displayed a natural passion for aircraft and flight, citing names of missions, squadrons, and models of planes on command. She informed us that all of the planes are flyable and they do fly them often, “nothing has a permanent parking spot.”
There is also a tribute to the tributes to the 39th Fighter Squadron, Cobra in the Clouds, who first assembled Bellingham. These men went on to become one of the most-decorated squadrons of WWII in the South Pacific. The museum has made a commitment to sharing stories like these through their education programs and tours.
The little hangar holds plenty of information along with impressive eye candy for those who love planes. If you would like to see them in action, up in the clouds, stop by on one of their designated “Fly Days” which happen on the 3rd Saturday of each month with select aircraft.
Kate made the great suggestion of stopping in if you’re early for that flight out of Bellingham or even making a day out of it and taking a sightseeing flight with one of the operators at the airport. San Juan Airlines does sightseeing flights that start at $50 for half an hour.
Flight fanatics in the region can visit the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley, spend the weekend at the Abbotsford Airshow this summer, and discover the history — and see the working planes — of Bellingham’s Heritage Flight Museum the next time they cross the border.
The Heritage Flight Museum is located at the Bellingham Airport, at 4165 Mitchell Way and is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. No appointment is necessary and admission is $5 per person.
When I was young Bellingham was a day trip destination for my family where we would explore places like the fish hatchery. As I grew older, Bellis Fair – and its abundance of retail options – became the reason to cross the border. In recent years, I have rediscovered Bellingham (including Fairhaven) and learned more about its art scene, parks system, and history. Follow some of my posts about this region and the rest of county using my tag: Whatcom.