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Charleston’s Aviation History 


Charleston has a rich aviation history. The city is home to an important aircraft carrier and decades of air military history. But Charleston is also home to current-day aviation attractions. Visit some of our famous museums or see Charleston by air with a helicopter tour. Celebrate aviation month in the Holy City with these highlights. 


See Aviation History in Charleston 

Charleston Aviation history attracts visitors young and old. Check out Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum to see the USS Yorktown or visit the Charleston Museum for photography collections showing Charleston’s air history. 

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum 

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is Charleston’s headquarters of naval and maritime military history. Patriots Point is a great option for those looking for military aviation history. The museum offers flight academy simulators as well as hands-on military aviation history. 


Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum offers a flight academy program for those aged 11 and older. They also allow you to tour multiple aircrafts, including the F4F Wildcat and F6F Hellcat. Their programs offer a look at the 10 most important aircrafts used in history. 


The USS Yorktown holds a special place in Charleston’s aviation history. This aircraft carrier was the tenth to serve the United States Navy. The USS Yorktown played an important role in the Pacific theater of World War II. The ship was modernized in the 1950s to be an attack carrier and then an anti-submarine aircraft carrier. This is the ship that recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts in 1968. Now residing in Charleston, it was moved here from New Jersey in 1975. 


Patriots Point is one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions. Admission to the museum gives you access to both the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and 28 other historic aircrafts. Located in Mt. Pleasant, this family-friendly museum is a great way to explore Charleston’s aviation history. 

The Charleston Museum 

One of the Charleston Museum’s permanent collections includes a photography collection of the Army Air Force. These photographs from World War II show airmen in action, and the photography collection is a great reminder of Charleston’s aviation history. 


How Charleston Contributes to Aviation Today

Charleston is a significant contributor to current aviation technology. Charleston holds both the largest airport in the state and is one of three locations where Boeing builds the 787 aircraft. 


Boeing in North Charleston 

Charleston aviation history was made in 2009 when Boeing announced they would be opening an assembly and delivery site for 787 airplanes in North Charleston. This made North Charleston one of three places in the world where twin-aisle airplanes are manufactured. Since 2009, Boeing South Carolina has delivered two 787 airplanes, one to Air India and one to Singapore Airlines. Boeing has since expanded its expertise in the area, employing Charlestonians in engineering design and IT centers at the Boeing campus. 


Charleston International Airport Work With the Military 

Getting in and out of Charleston is a breeze with this exceptional airport. Charleston International Airport is the largest airport in the state, carrying 3.5 million passengers in 2015. 


Opened in 1929, the Charleston International Airport operated continuously until World War II. At that time, it was given over to the U.S. Army. During World War II, the Army Air Corps used the airport as an important eastern seaboard defense program and it was also used as an air depot training station for troops anticipating overseas departure. 


The airport continued to work with the U.S. Army during the Korean War and today the airport runways are jointly-owned by the airport and the U.S. Air Force, the longest-running agreement of its kind in the United States. 

Military Aviation in Charleston 

Charleston’s aviation history is forever entwined with the military. Charleston is home to a joint military base. With a history in the Air Force, Charleston now houses multiple aircraft units and the base shows a history of the military aviation industry. 


Charleston was the site of a U.S. Navy seaplane operation during World War II. The Cooper River was allegedly home to seaplanes for squadron VPB 18, 21 and 25. 


Joint Base Charleston and Joint Base Air Park 


Located 10 miles from downtown Charleston is Joint Base Charleston, the home of the Charleston Air Force base and the naval weapons station. The base has provided airlift support since the 1940s. Since the base was founded, eight separate cargo aircrafts and four tenant unit aircrafts have operated at this base. Air Force units that call the base home include the 628th Air Base Wing, the 437th Airlift Wing and the 315th Airlift Wing (Air Force Reserve). 


Air Mobility Command is located at Joint Base Charleston. This unit provides airlift and airplane refueling for armed forces. This unit conducts air humanitarian missions around the world. 


The base holds local events and other aviation events. Check their website for more details. Save the date for the Joint Base Charleston Air Expo in April 2020. The Blue Angels will be visiting Charleston during this free event showcasing air and space expertise. 


The Joint Base Air Park is the museum for Joint Base Charleston. The Air Park was founded in offers a collection of important military aircrafts. The museum currently hosts C-47 “Skytrain,” C-121 “Constellation,” a C-124C “Globemaster II,” and a C-141B “Starlifter.”


See Charleston By Air

See the Holy City from the sky with a helicopter tour. Here are three tour companies if seeing Charleston from the air appeals to you. 


Check out Holy City Helicopters to see the city at sunset, during the day, or to receive flight lessons. The company also provides aerial photography. 


Fly In Helicopters offers a variety of helicopter tours including a Fort Sumter, Folly Beach, Lighthouse, or Waterfront tours. 


Charleston Flight Services offers scenic tours of Charleston by plane. Contact them to set up a two-person, one-hour tour of Charleston. 


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