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.
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.
At Ground Level
The museum is located in a solid looking brick hangar on the Zeltweg air base property. Its collection is displayed in a main atrium and a mezzanine. Around the entrance to the museum, there is a small area with some historic aircraft and land vehicles. Once inside, you’ll find the cash desk and souvenir shop.
Once past the souvenir shop and into the museum’s main atrium, you can start exploring the collection of over 25 aircraft. There’s a lot of aircraft here for the amount of space, so the exhibits are quite tightly packed in and photography can be a challenge. However, there is a good amount of natural light coming into the atrium and that keeps it from feeling claustrophobic.
The first thing that will catch your eye when you enter the main atrium is the pair of Saab Draken fighters that serve as centrepieces to the aircraft collection. The Swedish slant of the museum’s collection is built upon by an example of the rotund Saab J-29 Tunnan fighter alongside examples of the Saab Safir basic trainer and Saab 105 advanced jet trainer.
More international flavour is provided by a sleek Fouga CM.170 Magister and Alouette II helicopter of French origins alongside a DeHavilland Vampire and a Shorts SC.7 Skyvan from Great Britain.
American contributions to the Austrian air force include Bell 47, UH-1 Huey and Kiowa helicopters along with a T-6 Texan trainer aircraft. The main floor collection is rounded out by a line of training aircraft from five different countries.
To one side of the main atrium is a smaller area for temporary exhibitions.
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. It also allows you to get some good photos of aircraft on the main floor that would not be possible at ground level.
Exhibit galleries on the mezzanine level include scale models, photographs, uniforms, armaments and aviation archaeology. The only real departure the museum makes from the post WWII era is a display of recovered Messerschmitt Bf-109 wreckage in a small Second World War related gallery.
One gallery on the mezzanine is dedicated to police aviation in Austria.
At the time of my most recent visit, in September of 2022, a section of the mezzanine galleries was closed for renovations.
Paying a Visit and Learning More
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. The best way to see the museum is to combine it with Zeltweg’s Airpower airshow, which happens on a roughly tri-annual basis. During the airshow, entry to the museum is free of charge.
The museum is a branch of the larger Austrian Military Museum, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, based in Vienna. The parent museum, known as HGM for short, has a number of exibitions in Vienna and other places in Austria.
This is the HGM’s dedicated page for the Zeltweg museum. It will give you information about operating hours, entance fees and directions on how to get to the museum.