Variety Born of Neutrality
Established in 2005 on the occasion of the modern Austrian air force’s 50th anniversary, this museum places it’s primary focus from 1955 onward.
In the early post war years, while most of Europe was aligning with NATO or the Warsaw Pact, Austria opted for a position of non-alignment and neutrality. This neutrality resulted in the country assembling an air force of varied and eclectic machines from a variety of origins.
Within the museum’s collection, a visitor can see American, British, Czech, French, Italian, Soviet and Swedish designed aircraft sitting alongside each other.
A Feel for the Place
The museum is located in a solid looking brick hangar on the Zeltweg air base property. To one side of the main entrance I was greeted by a pair of Saab J-35 Draken fighter jets, to the other side was a Saab Safir training aircraft. The museum is overseen by the Museum of Military History in Vienna.
A short walk past the souvenir shop put me in the main atrium of the museum and face to face with yet another pair of Saab Drakens; this pair retained special paint schemes: one in a striking red and white scheme applied in 1996 to mark the 1000th anniversary of Austria’s establishment; the other is painted in a glossy black finish with a dragon head motif and was used in the final retirement ceremonies of the Draken in 2005.
As I made my way around the pair of Drakens, I encountered an example of the rotund Saab J-29 Tunnan alongside a sleek Fouga CM.170 Magister. A British flavour came courtesy of a DeHavilland Vampire and a Shorts SC.7 Skyvan while American contributions were represented mostly by helicopters. Working my way full circle, I found a group of six trainers from five different countries.
The museum continues on a mezzanine which offers a great view over the aircraft in the atrium and gets you closer to aircraft which are suspended from the hangar roof. Exhibits on the mezzanine level consist of scale models, photographs, uniforms, armaments and aviation archaeology. The only two departures the museum makes from the post WWII era is a display of recovered Messerschmidt Bf-109 wreckage and a small First World War related gallery.
The variety of aircraft on display is certainly impressive in it’s own right, the fact that all the aircraft served at one time or another in the same air arm makes it more impressive still.
In spite of this variety, it is impossible not to take note of the part that Saab has played in equipping the Austrian air defenses. With no less than five Draken fighters, two Safir trainers and a Tunnan fighter on the premises when I visited in June, 2013; the Swedish aircraft manufacturer is well represented in this museum.
Visiting the Museum
Relative to other places in Austria, Zeltweg could be considered enough on the isolated side that you would have to make a special trip if you wanted to see the museum. In light of this, probably the best way to see the museum is to combine it with Zeltweg’s semi-regular Air Power airshow. During the airshow, entry to the museum is free of charge.
Normal operating hours and prices are as follows:
Tuesdays to Sundays 09:00 – 17:00
Standard admission: 3 Euros
Reduced admission: 2 Euros
The following links will tell you more about both the museum and the history of the Modern Austrian air force:
Official Museum Webpage (German only)
Museum of Military History summary in English
A good overview in English of both the museum and modern Austrian air force: