Rantoul, Illinois: Octave Chanute Air Museum (Closed)

Collection of aircraft and other exhibits, including the only XB-47 in existence. No longer allow visitors to climb into the cockpit of a B-52 bomber or into the Minuteman missile silo. Museum closed Nov. 1, 2015.
Directions:
I-57 Exit 250, to US 136 to Rantoul. At the third traffic light, turn right to Century Blvd. Continue on Century to 4-way stop with Borman Ave. Continue to the second street, Flessner St. Turn left; Flessner turns into Pacesetter Dr. Museum is on the right; free parking lot across the street from the main entrance.
Hours:
Museum closed Nov. 1, 2015.
Status:
Closed

Visitor Tips and News About Octave Chanute Air Museum

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Missile.

Octave Chanute Air Museum

I was sorely disappointed that the museum has permanently closed, effective November, 2015. I noted work crews on the flight line behind the museum taking display aircraft apart. The base is slowly being dismantled with classroom buildings being torn down. Many of the officer houses are being rented out as well as space in the old dormitories which are being overgrown with vegetation.

The Minuteman missile still stands at the original entrance off Highway 45.

[Bob Farquhar, 05/13/2016]
Octave Chanute Air Museum

You can no longer go in the silo or B52 cockpit. Disappointed! Most of the planes look pretty rough. It is notable they have the only XB-47 in existence.

[Brian Hickman, 09/17/2011]
Octave Chanute Air Museum

The Octave Chanute Air Museum boasts the second largest collection of aircraft, missiles and Air Force memorabilia in the Midwest. The museum property is a refurbished military aviation hangar (once called Chanute Field - first established as a part of the US Army Signal Corps - which would later become one of the largest USAF Strategic Training installations). The 1940s era hangars house the collection, with a nod to the Illinois connection of Air Force history.

Of special significance is the exhibit honoring the 99th Pursuit Squadron of Tuskegee Airmen fame. Chanute Field was chosen for training the WWII pilots and their ground support technicians.

The mostly volunteer workers - many who were stationed at the airfield when it was an active training installation - work long hours piecing together a complex and highly hands-on museum. I had the opportunity to talk with a Veteran who gave our Cub Scout Den a tour of the aircraft he had once served on, and was now helping to restore. Imagine, a real living tour given by one of the men who once sat at the reconnaissance instruments on its daily mission over the North Atlantic in the 1950s and 1960s.

The displays at the facility range from replicas of the Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny," an 1896 Octave Chanute glider, a real B-52 nosecone/cockpit section (not for the claustrophobic!), and the only remaining XB-47 Stratojet bomber.

The flight simulator exhibit shows how far we've come from the early days of computer applied avionics training in their stark simplicity. Many of the displays are the exact units used to train over 1.5 million troops who passed through the field's gates during its 75 year tenure in East Central Illinois.

The most interesting display is the underground silo that once housed a training platform of the Minuteman missile, which was a major part of the nation's defense at the height of the cold war. One can climb down the stairwell to the blast doors to get a glimpse of bygone times and almost feel that palpable tension at every step.

If you choose to visit during the summer months you may see many parachutes filling the sky as the village of Rantoul plays host to the World Free Fall Convention each year and also hosts the largest Boy Scout gathering in Illinois each fall, the Illini Jamboree.

[LV Johnston, 12/10/2006]
Chanute Air Museum

This former air base has two features: The Chanute Air Museum and the 2nd largest military building (or maybe it was the largest until the Pentagon came along). This building is for sale, if interested. The museum is located in a building near the flightline. The lady that takes your money tells you to follow the course on the map-no wandering. You wind through the rooms chronologically through the AF base's history.

Finally, you come out in one of two hangars. Here are all the planes the Air Force left behind when the closed the place including a B-58 Hustler and a C-131. Best part: Go in to the business front-end of a B-52, climb up a narrow ladder and you are on a flight deck of a BUF bomber. Also on site are some flight simulators (I think the AF techs learned to fix them here) and a couple of missile silo mock ups. Don't get too excited about these; they were for electrical wiring training and one was flooded.

[Jerry, 05/06/2001]

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