Friday, February 8, 2013

My Backyard - Quonset Air Museum; North Kingstown, RI

If you're a Rhode Islander you've probably heard of the National Guard Open House and Air Show. It's held every summer at the Quonset State Airport in North Kingstown; widely advertised and very well attended. Quite a lot of fun! Aircraft from all eras put on a dazzling display. There are vintage to modern warfare planes. There are skydivers. Demonstrations. Visitors can even get up close and personal to planes parked on the tarmac. There's always plenty of refreshments and interesting items for sale. It makes for a great family day!

At one of those shows, my husband ran into a former coworker who was talking with visitors about an old plane. He gave our then 2-year old grandson a thrill of a lifetime when he allowed him to go up into the cockpit with hubby. While we chatted, he mentioned he volunteered at the Quonset Air Museum. I think that might have been the first time I heard of it. We told him that we would make it a point to visit someday.

Flash forward 5 years. Someday finally came last month. I made it to the Museum. Let me back up a bit here and give you some history on how it finally came to pass.

Last year my west coast brother came home for a visit with the family. He's a former U.S. Marine who served for 30 years and retired as a Sergeant Major. While home, he went to the Quonset Airport and visited the Museum. He offered to donate one of his uniforms for a display housing uniforms of all the branches of the U.S. military. When he returned to his home in California, he shipped off one of his uniforms to the Museum.

That was the impetus I needed to finally head to North Kingstown and visit the Museum. I needed to pay homage to my brother's uniform. I mean, c'mon! How often does one have a family artifact hanging in a museum, right? This was way cool!

So when my brother flew home for his annual visit, I grabbed the opportunity to ask him to accompany hubby and I to the new home of his uniform. He was also anxious to see his uniform on display so he was eager to go, too.

At the Museum, we were warmly greeted by the President of the Museum, David Payne, a retired U.S. Army ranger. He led us to the uniform display where we proudly gazed at my brother's heavily decorated dress blues which hung alongside it's breathren uniforms. David offered to personally escort us around the Museum.
He opened the door and beckoned us into a huge 50,000 sq. ft. hangar built during the second world war. Thank goodness we were bundled up that day. It was a bit cold in the cavernous brick building on that cold January day.

While we strolled by the Museum's aviation artifacts, David gave us an interesting commentary of the Museum's history and mission. The Quonset Air Museum (QAM) was founded in 1992. It strives to educate the public regarding Rhode Island's aviation legacy. Through activities, hands-on displays, classroom presentations. And according to its website, "It aims to preserve, interpret and present Rhode Island's aviation history through its collections, research, education and exhibits."
The Museum's collection includes thousands of artifacts: military vehicles, aircraft (including planes and helicopters), missiles, etc. During our visit, we saw only a very small fraction of the treasures housed there. We meandered through and around some quite impressive pieces of machinery. From vintage war planes in the midst of being restored to fully restored aircraft. There was a wide array of artifacts to view, from Vietnam era aircraft to jet engines to inspect and ejection seats to check out. So many fascinating items! Personally, I loved seeing the Blue Angels' A-4 Skyhawk and the F-4 Phantom up close.
As we continued on through the hangar we came upon a room set aside for children's birthday parties, a play area full of toy planes for children to play with and an open cockpit which allows children to sit at the controls and pretend to pilot the aircraft. If you have very active, inquisitive children, they'll love this area!

The Museum also has a small gift shop where visitors can sign a visitor's log and pick up many items like toy planes and books to learn more about aviation. In the shop are more artifacts to view, like helmets and goggles and vintage photographs.
David explained that the Museum depends on the many volunteers who love aircraft and aviation history who donate their time helping to restore the planes and artifacts. He only wished that more people would step forward to assist the Museum. He's very passionate about preserving not only the Museum's treasures but Rhode Island's role in aviation history. And we whole heartedly agreed. It'd be great if more people stepped forward to assist the Museum in its endeavors.
I will definitely head back to the QAM to spend more time reading up on and learning about everything that is housed there. But I will definitely do it in the summertime when its much warmer! If you get the chance, take some time and head to the QAM in North Kingstown. It's worth the drive and it'll be time well spent. It has something to interest people of all ages. It's definitely a place that does Rhode Island proud.

The QAM is located at 488 Eccleston Avenue in North Kingstown, RI. For further information, including hours and admission rates, and an inventory of the aircraft housed at the QAM, visit the Museum's website:

See ya there!


  1. remember when we took connor that summer that luke was in basic? i still have the pictures, and i will never forget how much fun connor had!!!!! that is one of the better air shows i have been to!

  2. it's one of my fondest memories! i would love to take them all back there to visit this museum. they would love it!

  3. How cool that you were able to go with your brother to seehis uniform andthat you got a special guided tour! Sounds like areal gem of a place!

    1. It's a nice diamond in the rough, Suzi. So much history and so many stories crammed into that huge hangar. I just worry that if not enough young people find the place and volunteer, with the stories and history fade away? I hope not!
      And yes, way cool to see my brother honored in a museum. Whoa!

  4. Hopefully the museum will be able to keep up the community outreach and get more and more people interested! The birthday room is a great start!


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