The Royal Thai Air Force Museum is small and a bit hidden away near the old Don Muang Airport. Its collection covers the history of Thai Aviation, from old bi-planes to modern jet fighters. There’s around thirty airplanes on display, with some outdoors and some protected inside the huge hangars that have been converted into the museum. It’s small collection but it’s unique to Thailand and some aircraft are very rare or even the last of their kind.
Some of the aircraft in the collection date back to the early 1900s and these massive machines are loaded with history. They stand proud on red carpets next to fighters from the Vietnam war era. It’s surprising to see just how big these single-propeller war planes are when compared to the tiny leisure planes in service nowadays.
Parked neatly outside like a rag tag fleet ready to take to the skies is an impressive collection of first generation jet fighters. Despite being a bit neglected, the North American F 86L, Republic F 84 Thunder-Jets and Lockheed T33A are still impressive. Further on are the training and rescue planes: Percival Prince IIIA and Beechcraft model 18, even a Fairchild C-123b with a garland of yellow flowers hanging in the cockpit, just like the ones you find hanging in taxis. The perfectly restored Curtiss Hawk III is the last one on the planet and shares top billing with a Vought Corsair V-93s. A two-seat bomber standing outside the museum is called the Paribatra (pronounced Boripat) and was the first plane designed and built in Thailand, way back in 1927.
There are some really unusual aircraft (including helicopters) on display here, and aviation enthusiasts will have a ball ticking some of the off their list of must see airframes.
Here’s just few aircraft you’ll come across at the Royal Thai Air Force Museum:
Nieuport IIN / IVG
One of the foundation aircraft of the Royal Thai Air Force. Four were brought from France to become part of the newly formed RTAF in 1913, a fifth aircraft was built locally in 1915.
Vought V-93S Corsair
The export version of the Vought O3U, this US Navy aircraft was built during the early 1930s. Twelve were sold to the RTAF in 1934 and they remained in service until 1945. This is the only surviving example of it anywhere in the world. It is an exceedingly special display and considered by some to be a national treasure.
Curtis Hawk III
The Curtis Hawk III is another early design at the museum. Twenty four were shipped to Thailand from 1935 through to 1936. Local production began in 1938 with 25 completed by 1940. The type was retired from RTAF service in 1949. This example is the only survivor of the type in the world.
The Royal Thai Air Force Museum is small and doesn’t compare with other air museums you’ll find in Europe or the USA, but as it’s oft forgotten, you’ll find it easy to get around which is always a nice surprise. The Thai Air Force Museum might not be on the Top 10 most popular attractions in Bangkok, but it definitely goes on the list of offbeat things to do in Bangkok!
The Royal Thai Air Force Museum is open daily from 9am until 4pm (except holidays) at 171 Phahonyothin Road, behind Don Muang Airport.
The museum is some distance away from the CBD but is accessible by taxi. However, it’s advisable to speak to us at Your Thai Guide about putting together a tour that incorporates the sights of the area so you don’t waste too much time just getting from place to place on your visit to Bangkok.
Some other offbeat things to see and do in Bangkok include: