Thursday, December 13, 2012

Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum

I haven't had as much time to post on this page as I'd like since I also have two other very active blogs along with several Facebook pages that I manage in addition to my other writing work. Oh, yeah, and I have five kids, too, that keep me a tad busy. So, I thought I'd start sharing some of my previously published articles here when I don't have time for a lengthy post. There are so many interesting places we've been in the 13 years that I've been doing travel writing. For many years, I wrote "One-Tank Trip" articles for the Northwest Indiana Times, but last year as things were getting trimmed down, that column was one of the casualties. And I really miss it. Here's a one-tank trip article I wrote back in 2006 on the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum. Having boys who love anything with an engine, this was a perfect place to take them. And being a history buff, I was fascinated by all I was learning there. I think it was the trip that I first really learned who the Tuskegee Airmen were. I'd love to repeat the trip again soon. It was a nice place to visit in the winter. If you decide to check it out, be sure to comment and let me know how you enjoyed it.

Here's some updated information on hours and ticket prices from the website,

Normal Hours - Mar 19 thru Nov 21, 2012
Monday thru Saturday: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday: Noon - 5:00 PM
Winter Hours - Effective Nov 23, 2012 thru Mar 10, 2013
Monday thru Saturday: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Sunday: 12:00 Noon - 4:00PM
Holiday Hours
Easter: Closed - Apr 8, 2012 (Sunday)
Thanksgiving: Closed - Nov 22, 2012 (Thursday)
Christmas: Closed - Dec 25, 2012 (Tuesday)
New Years: Closed - Jan 1, 2013 (Tuesday)
Admission Prices:
Seniors(62+)$  8.00
Active / Retired Military $  8.00
Students(K-12)$  5.00
Children(4 years or under)$  FREE

One-Tank Trip: Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum, Rantoul, Ill

January 21, 2006 12:00 am  •  
The Wright Brothers often are the first names that come to mind at the mention of aviation. The name Octave Chanute may not be as familiar. However, he was experimenting with aviation long before the Wright brothers took to the sky.
A military base, which opened in Rantoul, Ill., in 1917, was named Chanute Field in his honor. After the Chanute Air Force Base closed in 1993, one of the buildings was converted into a museum, which is full of historical exhibits pertaining to Chanute, the military and Rantoul.
As you turn onto Century Boulevard leading to the museum, it's as if you've suddenly driven into a ghost town. Empty barracks sit along the street of what was once a bustling air base, which reached its peak population of 25,000 soldiers during World War II. A large military plane greets you as you reach the museum.
Once you step inside the museum, this ghost town comes alive with the faces of personnel that served at the base with exhibits that chronicle the history of military aviation. Several small planes are on display in an exhibit called Illinois Pioneers in Aviation and many more are housed in the attached hangar.
Visitors can start their self-guided tour next to the gift shop in one of a series of rooms full of artifacts once used at the base. One room is full of Frasca Flight simulators, one is dedicated to POWs, another has an example of what the barracks once looked like and another has an exhibit on the Korean War.
The Illinois Pioneers in Aviation exhibit recognizes some of the blacks who have played a significant role in aviation, including Robert H. Lawrence Jr., who was the first black astronaut and Cornelius Coffey, the first black to hold both a pilot's license and an aviation mechanic's license and to establish an aeronautical school in the U.S. An adjacent room has a display on the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the first all-black Air Corp. Squadron in 1941. An expanded room will open in June.
The Rantoul Historical Society also operates a museum in the building, offering visitors a look at the past.
Along the first main hallway is a visual timeline of the base's history with photos. The historical displays are fascinating, but what is most impressive is the large collection of military aircraft, which, with the exception of a few replicas, were all used at the base at one point.
The museum houses about 40 aircraft in all, including a B-25 Mitchell, B-58 Hustler and an F-104 Starfighter. The F-104 was the USAF's first Mach-2 fighter and held the world's speed and altitude records in the early 1960s. The one on display was used at Chanute for inspection purposes.
In the hangar, you'll also see an airport firetruck and replica of a 1931 field staff car, which cost $630 when it was purchased new. There also is a missile silo that was used for training.
Just outside the hangar are several more planes, including two that are in the process of being restored. The outdoor fleet is made up of larger planes and you'll find a Navy seaplane and a B-47 in the group.
What to bring ...
* The kids or the grandkids. The young ones will love seeing the enormous military jets on display.
* A light jacket or sweater if visiting in cooler weather. There is a place to check your coats, but if you plan to spend time looking around in the hangar, you'll probably get a little chilly, so bring an extra layer.
* Some cash for an aviation-related souvenir or T-shirt in the gift shop.
* A camera to capture shots of some of impressive military planes or shots of the kids as pilots with their head in the cutout of a wooden life-size character.
How to get there ...
Take I-57 south to the Rantoul exit. Go east on Highway 136 (Champaign Avenue) to Century Boulevard. Turn right onto Century Boulevard. You'll see a sign (and a C-97 plane) at the corner of Flessner Avenue directing you to go left to the museum. (If you happen to see a pilot, call about fly-ins.)
What's there ...
An extensive collection of over 3,000 artifacts from when the area was an operating Air Force Base, including over 40 aircraft.
You'll like ...
Learning about the history of the base and seeing the faces of many pilots who were trained there.
The kids will like ...
Stepping down into a missile silo once used for training.
And don't miss ...
The Korean War Veterans Museum and National Library, located at the other end of the building.
If you go
Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays
Where: 1011 Pacesetter Drive, Rantoul, Ill.
Cost: $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and retired military, $4 for children ages 4 to 12 and free for children 4 and younger
FYI: (217) 893-1613 or

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