The Royal Thai Air Force Museum, Phahonyothin Road
Aeroplanes, especially a lot of them, are not the easiest pieces of machinery to conceal. If you happen to possess more than 50 examples and they’re proudly on display for anyone to gaze upon, you might imagine great hordes of plane spotters and their ilk would be queuing from dawn to dusk to marvel at the aeronautical feast laid out before their eyes.
In the case of the Royal Thai Air Force Museum in Bangkok, this is far from the case. Officially addressed as 171 Phahonyothin Road, it is a bit difficult to find, even for taxi drivers. Nevertheless, a little perseverance and a sharp eye and you’ll come across what must surely be one of the most extensive museums featuring a particular form of military hardware anywhere in the world. Remarkably, entry is free.
Inside the entrance is an area consisting of photos, newspaper clippings and paintings celebrating the men responsible for the creation of the Thai air force, their exploits and some of the actions involving combat in the period from 1911 to 1945.
Another section is also given over to memorabilia, again including photos and paintings as well as cartoons, much of it concerning the lead-up to the beginning of the Pacific War in December 1941. Most of the captions are only in Thai in this section.
The planes are divided into three large groups and a number of smaller annexes. According to the commentary inscribed on plaques in front of most of the aircraft, the museum has two planes reputed to be the last of their kind anywhere in the world and another that is one of just two extant. This is the Tachikawa trainer, a Japanese-made aircraft that saw service with the Thai air force from 1940 until 1949.
There is a Breguet two-seater bomber, purchased from France and which served from 1919 until 1937; there are the American-constructed Curtiss single-seat monoplane and biplane, both in service between 1935 and 1949 and a Boripatra, built in 1927 and the first aeroplane completely designed and constructed in Thailand. There is also a Skyraider AD1, which, apparently, is quite a rare example.
One magnificent piece of pre-jet aircraft is a 1950 Spitfire, in immaculate condition. Even today its sleek lines and confirmation give it an aura of imperial certitude, a beauty and grace many other machines, from any era, cannot seem to match.
For anybody interested in Thai history in general, and military aviation in particular, the Royal Thai Air Force Museum, open from 9:00am until 4:30pm every day except public holidays.