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Oakland's fledgling air museum.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF AVIATION had a brief flowering at Oakland's North Field. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew in to dedicate the field, and Amelia Earhart launched several flights, including her last, tragic voyage, in 1937. It's fitting, then, that the Western Aerospace Museum is taking shape here, near Oakland International Airport.

This fledgling, volunteer-run museum opened in 1989 in a former Boeing hangar. It's the first of its kind in the Bay Area, and growing fast, boasting 10 planes (1920s to 1950s), aviation artifacts, and exhibits.

You'll view such rarities as a 1932 Penguin, a 24-foot-long pilot trainer. Buffs will enjoy seeing old but pristine engines, including a twin of the one that powered Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis; nearby sits a huge torpedo bomber of the type President Bush flew in World War II. Fittingly, there is also an L-10 Electra, the same 1935 plane model that Earhart piloted on her last flight.

One exhibit is devoted to General James Doolittle and his famous World War II raid on Tokyo. Others look at early airliners, the roles of women in aviation and space, the "river rat" jet pilots of Vietnam, and more.

Late this fall, an educational center on the space shuttle is scheduled to open, with computer monitors showing a satellite program from the shuttle (when it is flying). Hot-air balloonists and pilots of radio-controlled planes will soon have displays here too.

At the restoration workshop, you might see volunteers dismantling engines or rebuilding wings; they're usually happy to chat.

The 1944 Halcyon flying boat flew reconnaissance missions in World War II and then provided luxury passenger service until the mid-50s. For an extra $3, you can tour the interior and see just where Harrison Ford sat while filming a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Hours are 10 to 4 weekends; admission is $3, $1 ages 6 through 17, $10 families. School groups can arrange special tours, and ages 6 through 17 can join a Young Astraonaut program; call (510) 638-7100.

From I-880, exit west on Hegenberger Road, turn right on Earhart Road, and then right again on Cooke Street. The museum is at Cooke and Boeing streets (near the Alaska Airlines hangar).
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Title Annotation:Western Aerospace Museum in California
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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