The Aviation Museum, now the National Aeronautic and Space Museum was created on 13 July 1944 by Supreme Decree No. 486, under the government of President Juan Antonio Ríos Morales, the Minister of Defence Major General Don Oscar Escudero Otárola and Commander in Chief of the Chilean Air Force General Air Tovarías Don Manuel Arroyo. Raul Pereira reports from Santiago, Chile, for GAR.
The Aviation Museum began its activities in an old house in Calle Catedral No. 2092 and, after holding other facilities belonging to the Department of Aeronautics and the National History Museum, moved in 1968 to the Paris Pavilion in front of the Quinta Normal Park in Santiago, where it stayed for over 23 years, developing the collection’s historical and technological character.
During 1992 the collection moved into its current facilities at Los Cerrillos Airport. The construction of purpose-built premises was the result of a joint decision by the retired Commander in Chief of the Chilean Air Force, General del Aire Don Fernando Matthei Aubel and the museum director Colonel Aviation (A) Don Mario Jahn Barrera. The project design was produced by architect Fernando Torres Arancibia.
By Supreme Decree No. 800 of 26 October 1995 signed by President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle; Defense Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma and Commander in Chief of the Chilean Air Force General Don Fernando Rojas Selling Air, the museum was given “national” status and thus renamed to the National Aeronautic and Space Museum.
In 2012 I was in Santiago, Chile, for ten days, five of which would be spent at the FIDAE airshow, which is considered the leading Aerospace and Defence Exhibition in Latin America. In 2012 I could not go to the Museo Nacional y Espacio Avionics and was very frustrated. At the end of 2013 when I made preparations to go FIDAE 2014 I allocated more days for aviation at Santiago Airport (SCEL / SCL) with at least two days set aside to visit the Museum. I arrived in Santiago on the evening of 17 March and, after arriving at the hotel and preparing my equipment, I went to bed early because the next day I planned to get an early start and finally go to the museum. Museo Nacional y Espacio Avionics has free admission and receives visitors seven days a week from 1000 to 1700. The access to the “Jet Aircraft” hangar is only available at two times: 1100 and 1500.
Santiago is surrounded by the mountains of the Andes and in the early morning hours the temperature is very low until the sun comes up from behind the mountains. At 1000 I was on my way to the museum which is in the Los Cerillos Air Base, about ten minutes from the city centre. I confess that as I approached the Museum, anxiety grew and I took a deep breath to concentrate my mind and make sure I took good shots. I got out of the taxi at the door of the museum, and just 100 metres away is the entrance to the main building, where there are seemingly endless aircraft. As I made my way, it was now possible to see the outdoor exhibits. I went directly to the front desk where I was welcomed by the staff and decided to take the printed museum guide in English.
The main building is huge and houses the permanent exhibitions for civil and military aircraft and temporary exhibitions related to aviation. There is also a historic archive with documents and photographs relevant to aviation. On entering the building one of the Pitts Specials formerly operated by the Chilean Air Force display team, Escuadrilla Halcones, can be found hanging inverted from the metal ceiling.
As per the printed guide, the collection is distributed into sectors that tell the history of aviation. Starting with the first sector and progressing through the following rooms, it is impossible not to think of just how aviation has evolved so fast. The rooms contain a mix of original airframes and replicas.
I climb to the second floor, and on my right, through the glass, I see an amazing all-metal Republic P-47 Thunderbolt carrying the insignias of the Chilean Air Force (FACH).
It was now possible to see all aircraft that are inside this sector of the building and it is an amazing feeling to see so many aircraft that were used by the FACH and other countries that have been donated to the museum after being removed from service.
After these sectors on the second floor, a staircase leads to the first floor and I wasn’t sure which way to go at first.
After browsing around the building and shooting all of the aircraft I headed to the large courtyard behind the building where on display are two Mirage 50 Phantera, a Jaguar, one Phantom, one Canberra, one Casa 212, one Bandeirante and a Fokker F-27.
In the side yard two T-37s, one Hunter and one Mirage can also be found.
This courtyard gives access to the “Jet Aircraft” hangar in an air-conditioned environment with special lighting helping to illuminate the engines and aircraft. This hangar houses a Mirage 5B, T-33, Hunter, Vampire and a Harrier GR3 with its Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine positioned nearby.
After visiting this hangar, I went to the front of the main building where aircraft and helicopters are positioned on both sides of the entrance to the building and on the lawns in front.
On the left side is a North American F-86 Sabre from Honduras, one Northrop F-5 Tiger III and one Hawker Hunter from Chile, as well as an Israeli Dassault Mystère IV A.
On the right side lies one Sikorsky S-55, one Beechcraft C-45 and one Sikorsky S-58.
On the lawn in front you’ll find one Albatross and one DC-3.
After taking many photos, I sought out a member of museum staff and requested access to a more remote area of the museum where two BAC 1-11s, one Boeing 707, three Hunters and one Canberra awaiting restoration for display could be found.
Next to this courtyard in a smaller area is another Republic P-47 Thunderbolt , one Cessna Bird Dog, one small experimental plane and two T-34 Turbo Mentors.
The visit was great and time passed very fast… In fact, it was so good that four days later I returned to the museum with friends who had also gone to FIDAE 2014!
For more information on this excellent collection, please see the official museum website.