USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum-Absolute gem

When in San Diego, I visited USS Midway Museum. USS Midway was US Navy's longest serving aircraft carrier- commissioned in 1945 and decommissioned in 1992. USS Midway is named after the battle of Midway with Japan in the Pacific ocean towards the end of World War 2. USS Midway was little too late for world war 2 but served thereafter throughout the cold war period and contributed in various wars including Vietnam war. Today USS Midway rests on the shores of San Diego as a museum and visitors can explore it in detail for about 23 USD. Midway gets over a million visitors each year and is most popular warship in USA.

I had visited other air and navy museums earlier- such as Submarine Museum in Vizag * Swedish Submarine U3 in Malmo * Navy Aviation Museum in GoaINS Chapal Warship museum, Karwar * etc- But time spent onboard USS Midway was most memorable, due to the level of detailing visitors can experience here.

I decided to skip Maritime museum (which had similar priced entry ticket) and visit only Midway. I bought ticket and entered it at about 10 AM. Initially I was thinking this may take just a few hours and thus walked around at leisure. Only after few hours I realized that there's so much to see and I would need much more time. USS Midway Museum's closing hours is 5 PM (4 PM last entry)- I came out at about 4.45 PM. In this post I will explain what all to expect on board USS Midway Museum, in San Diego, California.

Main Hanger
You will enter the USS Midway Aircraft carrier at this level. Main hanger is few levels below the open deck from where aircrafts launch. Hanger deck is used for additional storage, repairs and such activities. At the hanger level of USS Midway, you can see/do the following:

1. Watch a documentary video
Go to extreme right- a 15 min documentary about battle of Midway will be shown every 30 minutes.If you're time constrained you can skip this, as there're 100s of videos available on youtube on this topic.

2. Pickup free audio tour (no extra charge)
Audio device lets you point to an exhibit and listen additional detailing in a language of your choice.

3. Watch various parked aircrafts
Several aircrafts are parked in hanger- you can take a closer look

4. Sit in various cockpits of prototype aircrafts to get first hand feel
Cockpits of various planes are on display, with functional rudder controls (operated by foot), joystick and all the instrument panels (non operational though). You can sit inside, move the joystick, push the pedals and feel how they respond, get some photos and move on. Expect a queue of kids and adults alike- if queue is too long you can come back later.


5. Pay and experience a simulator game (extra charge)
There's a paid activity you can try- sit in real pilot seat, experience a simulated flight using VR

6. Use restrooms (free)
Restrooms are available at this level.

7. Buy Souvenirs at the shop
You can buy some goodies, light snacks etc

8. Take a view of decks below

9. Go upstairs or downstairs for further experiences

After spending some time hanger bay, I went to the Upper deck of the USS Midway
1. Attend two guided sessions- one on launch and another one on recovery- to understand how fighter aircrafts are catapulted into air using super short runway available on top of carriers and how they are recovered. Besides the pilot a set of ground crew perform a series of coordinated actions to launch and recover planes. Senior veterans will explain these things at regular intervals with help of visuals. If you answer their questions correctly you might also win a medallion.


2. Go on bridge tour (island tour)- You can visit the flight deck, navigation room and launch control rooms on the carrier's bridge. Done in groups of 10 at a time, you may have to wait a bit for next batch.

Above: Commanding Officer's seat. One of the major stories of USS Midway involves the captain authorizing throwing out few helicopters into ocean, risking his military carrier, to make space for a private plane having a major and his family fleeing Saigon, during final days of Vietnam war.


3. View various parked aircrafts and helicopters, know about their specialties, go inside few of them



4. Relax on the benches, enjoy view of the city/ocean- watch the statue of sailor kissing his wife/girlfriend.

5. Go to far rear of the ship to see the net, extended area- understand what happens in a man-overboard scenario and see displays highlighting San Diego's naval heritage

6. Go one level below to view the briefing rooms- there're four such rooms


7. Proceed to downstairs

Underdecks
The aircraft carrier will have 5 to 7 floors or more under it. These decks house kitchen, mess, sleeping quarters, engine room, officer's room and various other facilities required for its crew of few thousand people. While on active duty, almost 4500 people live and work on carriers like this- mostly young men. Most part of these facilities are open to visitors- we can go to Engine room where veterans explain how it used to work, we can see kitchen, mess hall and various other facilities, we can watch some videos explain how massive logistics needed for the ship is managed and so on.





While USS Midway was a masterpiece of her times and a standard for all other carrier designs, couple of things changed over time.
Nuclear Ships: A diesel powered ship like USS Midway burns lots of gas- she needed refuelling every 3 to 4 days (to keep fuel levels above 60% all the time- can't afford to run out of gas middle of a battle). Refueling slows a ship down, limits her range, may compromise its location. Modern day ships are nuclear powered and can operate for 25 years without needing fuel.
No angled decks for take off: Midway was originally designed for propeller planes, later upgraded to support jet aircrafts. Modern carriers have better capabilities to launch and recover a jet aircraft.

What is CV 41?
I asked an officer what is CV 41, written all over USS Midway. C stands for Cruiser, V stands for capability to carry fixed wing aircrafts and 41 indicates it is the 41st such ship for which the funds were granted.

CVN stands for Nuclear. There're some CVB and other abbreviation as well.

We were not shown damage control room. There're several videos on USS Midway- you can watch them if interested.

Points to note:
  • No discounted tickets on weekdays. Same price all day.
  • Employees of some corporates which are sponsors for USS Midway museum may get discounted tickets (about 5$ less). Qualcomm, US Bank, Port of San Diego, BAE Systems are some of the sponsors. [List here]
  • Plan full day if you are interested in history, aviation and navy.
  • Keep an eye on weather. If it is rainy/cloudy you can explore underdeck, hanger, when it is sunny go to upper deck for better pictures.
  • Carry your lunch or snacks for the afternoon.
  • Some spaces are narrow, tight and may need climbing up on ladders. If you're not physically fit or have kids etc you may have to skip some portions.

Things to do/see nearby in San Diego:
San Diego Downtown, Seaport Village, Maritime Museum, Seal tours (land and water tours)

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