PBY Naval Air Museum

Whidbey Island’s military heritage is on display at the PBY Naval Air Museum in Oak Harbor. The museum features a restored PBY Catalina Aircraft.

The tail section for a military plane with a faded American flag painted on it.

Tail from a WV-2 Super Constellation

Oak Harbor’s new PBY Naval Air Museum is a showcase for Whidbey Island’s naval aviation history. Located on Pioneer Way, the museum is an easy-to-find resource for those curious about the seaplanes that came to call Whidbey home and naval aviation in general.

Inside you’ll find the things that were part of the daily life for a naval airman from the PBY Catalina’s golden age–the years before, during, and after World War II. The PBY was a seaplane able to stay airborne for as long as 20 hours, making it ideal for missions from reconnaissance to rescue. “The PBY,” says Wil Shellenberger, President of the PBY Memorial Foundation, which runs the museum, “was the forerunner of what we call the modern maritime patrol aircraft.” Many of those planes are now based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey.


The museum features several interactive exhibits that can give the visitor a taste of the PBY experience. People can squeeze inside the cramped space of a PBY gun turret and feel what it must have been like. There are two flight simulators where visitors can try “flying” everything from the PBY to today’s modern aircraft.

A World War Two era pilot's helmet and uniform with oxygen mask.

This is the typical uniform worn by a patrol plane pilot of the P2V-7 Neptune.

There’s also a theater where people can learn about the Navy’s presence on Whidbey starting with the seaplane base east of Oak Harbor. The film explores how the Navy then built a new base north of Oak Harbor shortly before World War II and transformed the small town into the community it is today.

Shellenberger says, “The mission of the museum is three-fold.” The first is to collect and preserve the history of the PBY Catalina aircraft. The second is to collect and preserve the history of all the aircraft flown at NAS Whidbey. The third is to preserve the history of the base in the Whidbey Island community.

People visiting the museum can see everything from flight suits to logbooks to jet tail hooks used to snag planes landing on aircraft carriers. There’s even a PBY engine, cut open to reveal the internal workings of the engine that could keep this amazing plane airborne.

Established in 1988, the museum has moved several times, opening at its new location in the summer of 2014. The foundation now also displays a PBY across the street from the museum.

Staffed by volunteers, the museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 270 SE Pioneer Way.

Admission:

$7.00 Adults (15-59 years)
$6.00 Senior (60 plus)
$6.00 Active duty military
$6.00 Children (6-14 years)
FREE for Under 6 years old
$6.00 Groups of 10 or more – please call to schedule, if possible.

Visit the foundation’s web site to learn more about the museum.