Part of the fun of visiting an aviation museum is bringing home a keepsake – or two. Just as the exhibits vary from place to place, so do the popular items from museum gift shops.
It’s not surprising that toy helicopters are the rage at the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, Pa.
“They are called Aero Props,” says Gregory Kennedy, the museum’s executive director. “They are little hand-operated wind-up toy helicopters appropriate for ages 5 and up. We go through a lot of those.”
At the Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., an M&M candy dispenser is the big item this year, says museum spokesman Mike Marcus.
“We partnered with Mars Candy and have a limited edition collectors M&M dispenser,” he notes. “It can only be purchased at the museum or through the M&M website and the proceeds from the sale go to finance Phase II at the Udvar Hazy Restoration Facility. When it is finished the public will be able to watch airplanes and spacecraft undergoing restoration.”
At the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore., wine made from grapes grown in Evergreen’s vineyard is a top seller. The bottles have images of the HK-1, also know as the “Spruce Goose,” on the label. The airplane is the crown jewel of the museum.
Visitors to the museum may notice young vines growing next to the facility. In a few years those too will be producing wine grapes.
In nearby Tillamook, Ore., anything with a P-38 on it is popular. That’s because the museum has an airworthy P-38 in its collection.
The Tillamook Air Museum is housed in an old Navy blimp hangar that hasn’t changed much since the war.
A T-shirt bearing the image of an aircraft that is under restoration is the top item at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pa.
“It’s the P-61,” says Brenda Saylor, a retired mechanic who, when she is not turning wrenches, does office duty. “When it is finished it will be the only airworthy P-61 around.”
Popular items at the Museum of Flight in Seattle include mugs that read “I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning,” as well as ties and key chains in the distinctive red color with “remove before flight” in white letters embossed on them. Another popular item from the museum in the city that spawned grunge fashion are Skybelts, which are belts available in many different colors that resemble seatbelts from airliners.
At Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Fla., visitors have the opportunity to take a ride in vintage airplanes. The guest are loaned a flight jacket for the ride and on their way out, a lot of them stop to pick one up from the gift shop.
“The little faux leather jackets are also very popular for kids, especially with the grandparents who buy them for their grandkids,” notes gift shop manager Desiree Beavers.
The classics are still top selling items at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Conn. According to Gina Maria Alimberti, gift shop and admissions manager, Guillow gliders, EZ-build model kits and diecast airplanes are snapped up.