Since Fort Worthians first saw a powered flight in 1911, they have worked effortlessly to reach great heights in the field of aviation. While museums and historical markers document the city’s rich history of aviation, contemporary Fort Worth offers spectacular airshows and interactive exhibits that continue to fuel the city’s passion for flight.
1. The Fort Worth Aviation Museum
Known as Veterans Memorial Air Park until it rebranded in 2013, the Fort Worth Aviation Museum offers an expansive look into the city’s flight history. The museum even has a “petting zoo,” where air aficionados can get up close and personal with an array of aircraft. While “Scooby” and “The Flying Dorito” may sound like a cartoon dog and a scheming villain, in actuality they are two of the twenty-one warbirds on display at the museum. Furthermore, the Fort Worth Aviation Museum offers special programs year-round such as Summer Aviation Camps for children, a Founders Day Picnic in May, and the annual “Women, Pilots, and Writers in Aviation” book fair. Open Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the Fort Worth Aviation Museum, located near Meacham International Airport, is a priority site for Texans who want to have some high-flying fun.
In 1911, a daring Frenchman by the name of Roland Garros braved Texas’s typical windy weather to demonstrate the Wright Brothers new invention for Fort Worthians. The demonstration may have only lasted minutes, however, the event has had a lasting impact on the city’s strong bond with the field of aviation. Modern day visitors can see the site of Garros’s historic flight in the recently dedicated First Flight Park. Close to Montgomery Plaza at 2700 Mercedes Avenue, the park is currently being revamped into a tranquil green space that will feature a gravity-defying statue of Garros’s aircraft, the Bleriot XL. However, aviation enthusiasts can still visit the historic site and marker, which explains the story of Fort Worth’s first powered flight. The renovations are expected to be finished soon.
Just three miles south of America’s second largest airport, DFW International, the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum takes guests through an interactive journey. Home to hundreds of artifacts including a rare Douglas DC-3 airliner, the museum’s exhibits span flight history from the ancient world to modern aviation. To fully immerse guests in the physics and history of flying, C.R. Smith boasts a 4K theater that shows the thrilling film Pursuit of Flight. C.R. Smith is open Tuesday through Saturday and is a mandatory pilgrimage for aviators, both professional and aspiring.
Featuring performances from US Special Ops parachutists and US Air Force Thunderbirds, the Fort Worth Alliance Air Show is free entertainment at its finest. Aside from electrifying performances in the air, displays on the ground also offers aircraft tours and Q&A opportunities with pilots. The airshow, which includes a giant aircraft carrier slide and “Military Madness” obstacle courses, is fun for the whole family. Alliance Airshow provides seating for attendees, so no need to bring your own lawn chairs. This year, the event will take place on October 25 and 26 at the Fort Worth Alliance Airport.
An odder chapter in Fort Worth’s aviation history comes out of Benbrook where Canada’s Royal Flying Corps (RFC) established three pilot training sites at the dawn of WWI. One of those enlisted included Vernon Castle, a Broadway star who, along with his wife Irene, introduced the tango to North America. Abandoning his celebrity life for military fatigues, Castle became an RFC officer and survived over 300 combat missions during WWI. Upon returning to Benbrook to teach aviation, Castle tragically died in a plane crash while instructing. A statue at the crash site commemorates the dancer turned pilot. Restored as an Eagle Scout project in 1997, the memorial is a hidden oddity among the 50s-era houses of Benbrook.