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Flight Adventure Deck

Flight Adventure Deck

Flight Adventure Deck

Sponsored by the
Naval Aviation Museum Foundation
at the
National Museum of Naval Aviation
NAS Pensacola, Florida

The Flight Adventure Deck Aeronautical Science Exhibit, which encompasses more than 9,000 square feet, has been designed and built by the staff of the National Museum of Naval Aviation, with funding provided by the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation.

The exhibit covers the basic principles of flight, beginning with gravity, mass and motion, the atmosphere, buoyancy, aerodynamics and propulsion. Future expansion will include navigation and meteorology.

The exhibit features 38 interactive devices, including:

  • 5 wind tunnels
  • frictionless air track
  • weather & hot air balloons
  • powerplant cutaways
  • space scale
  • see-through Navy trainer

There are also 11 computer-based informational kiosks, six of which are interactive. Four computer-based flight simulators are also located in the exhibit. The cost of building Phase 1 of the exhibit is approximately $1.7 million.

In our program, students from Santa Rosa and Escambia County schools are first introduced to the principles of flight as a prelude to an organized tour of the exhibit. Afterward, they get hands-on experience in the Flight Adventure Deck.

As the students navigate through the exhibit with the Flight Adventure Deck teachers, they investigate different science concepts and principles. They also collect data along the way that will be used in later activities back in their classroom.

The first stop along their way is to understand gravity and the difference between weight and mass, which are fundamental to our understanding of flight - as well as being part of our Sunshine State Standards in our middle school science curriculum.

The Free-Fall Race is a fun activity in which different weighted tennis balls are dropped at the same time to see how they fall. By observing how the tennis balls behave, students and the public learn first hand about Galileo’s Law of Falling Bodies. We also have a Space Scale that allows visitors and our students to experiment with the relationship between weight and mass. The scale allows you to read your weight on any of the planets in our solar system. With our classes, the students weigh different masses on different planets, plot their data, investigate ratios, make predictions and ultimately calculate the surface gravitational forces on those planets.


Upon entering the Atmosphere section of the exhibit, students find that understanding the composition and properties of Earth’s atmosphere are equally important to an understanding of how we fly. They can see what happens to air pressure as they change elevation from the Dead Sea to the top of Mt. Everest - as demonstrated by a liquid-filled manometer. Students use this device to collect data on the inverse relationship of air pressure and altitude.


Understanding lift and drag are much easier to do if we understand that air is matter or "stuff" - and that it has a definite mass. The Magdeburg Hemispheres device is a favorite tool for demonstrating what happens when you remove the "stuff" from inside a sealed container. Kids particularly enjoy trying to separate the hemispheres against the force of several hundred pounds of ambient air.



In the Aerostatic Flight section of the exhibit, visitors and students explore the principle of buoyancy with Descartes’ Divers and Helium Balloons. The Density of Gases device allows them to feel how much 100 cubic feet of each different gas in the atmosphere weighs, ultimately drawing conclusions as to those gasses which are lighter than air. From this lesson students can better appreciate how mankind first came to fly not like the birds, but in balloons.


The Aerodynamics section of the exhibit is the largest - including five wind tunnels and four computer-based flight simulators.

Bernoulli’s Principle is the basis of our understanding of how a wing produces lift, and we use several different wind tunnels to demonstrate how it works and how lift is affected by changes in angle of attack or drag.


The Captive Mentor wind tunnel gives students a bird’s eye view of how an airplane is controlled in the dimensions of pitch, roll and yaw. Designed to the museum's specifications, this wind tunnel is the first of its kind in any U.S. museum or science center and is unique in that it pulls air across the model airplane rather than blowing air at it.

The "See-Through SNJ," like the static cockpits so popular with Museum visitors, allows students the opportunity to see how the stick and rudder pedals are linked to the ailerons, elevators and rudder which control flight. But more than that, it is an actual WWII-era flight trainer with real flight controls and a real engine under the cowling. Its aluminum skin has been replaced by clear lexan to expose the tubular interior structure.

Thrust is the fourth force of flight examined in the exhibit, and the powerplants we use to produce this force are displayed in detail: piston engines, also known as "reciprocating" engines; gas turbines and rockets.



We have an operating cutaway of the Wright Cyclone R1820 piston engine and a unique computer-based animation that illustrates the four cycles of a piston engine. A Westinghouse J-34 gas turbine engine and a colorful fiberoptic display above it are also available to demonstrate the four stages of jet propulsion. Students learn the differences between reciprocating engines and gas turbines, and conduct a science experiment to test those differences. They even calculate their own horsepower.




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National Museum Of Naval Aviation

1750 Radford Blvd. Pensacola, FL 32508
Free Admission
Open 9 AM to 5 PM Daily