The Chanute Air Museum, Rantoul, IL
Located on the old Chaunte AFB, which closed in late 1993, the museum is housed in one of the main classroom/hangar buildings. There are several halls leading to large rooms where students at one time learned the basics of aviation as well as some of the equipment on which they'd be working after advanced training. The site has a very large hangar bay in which many of their exhibits are stored. Outside is a now very crowded ramp section and some of the museum exhibits are off on a field next to the museum and not accessible with any ease. In fact, the day I visited that area was fenced off.
Just to get the basics down:
Monday thru Saturday: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday: Noon - 5:00 PM
|Seniors||(62+) and Retired Military||$6.00|
|Children||(K-12)||$4.00 (Under 4 FREE)|
The staff there is quite friendly and if you wish to spend some quality time just chatting, they will be more than happy to accommodate you. A map of the various areas is provided. The two most recent additions to the museum is a room on the Illinois civil aviation (basically barnstorming) and one on the 99th FS (Tuskeegee Airmen). These are very nicely and professionally done with some very interesting aircraft and materials on display. There are also rooms on life in the service during WWII and Korea (much of which I readily recognized and I'm sure many of you will as well). The history of Chanute AFB is also well documented down the main corridors with lots of photos on the walls and some displays in cases along the way.
There are other sections by the Rantoul Historical Society, and a room full of flight simulators (looked like civil stuff to me). Other rooms are just full of books, poorly done models, model boxes and a plethora of stuff that really needs to be put into some sort of organization. Speaking of models, there were many display cases full of models. Most of them were not well done and probably put in there just to make some kid happy or are the remnants of some worker's childhood.
The main interest to me was the large full size display planes. I entered into a barely cool hangar and saw a lot of important aircraft, some of which were not exactly what I'd call pristine condition. Those outside suffered even more and many were in real need of clean-up and a fresh coat of paint. It was then quite obvious that the museum had a lot of stuff, but needed more funding level to keep it in top condition. Some of the display planes were in very good condition and you could tell that they'd recently had some work done to them. I was particularly impressed with the EC-121 that they had in Navy markings. Apparently a semi-autonomous group was gathering funds for that plane by offering tours and other money-raising schemes. Some of the other planes, like their F-15, were not at all in good shape with peeling paint and rusty or corroded parts. I should also mention that the aircraft are so jammed together that photography is quite difficult, especially inside.
This is not to say that it isn't worth the trip, but I would have visits to other Illinois aviation museums planned on that day. There are several within a few hours drive. This isn't the USAF Museum and while the Minuteman trainer and the selection of fire trucks and other vehicles was nice, you can see most of these aircraft types in other, more well-funded museums.
For more information, visit their website at http://www.aeromuseum.org/
Here is a selection of photos of the Museum's planes.