Featured/All images: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways

Exploring Japan Airlines' JAL Sky Museum

DALLAS — The JAL Sky Museum is an aviation museum operated by Japan Airlines (JL), which opened in July 2013. The facility receives approximately 120,000 people every year, and in 2016, TripAdvisor awarded it the certificate of first place in free sightseeing places. 

The Sky Museum we visit nowadays is different from in 2013. During the COVID-19 era, when the museum was closed, it received a considerable renovation and modernization of the facilities.

The museum would open to the public again in May 2022, and since then, many visitors have come, making it difficult to find tickets because it is usually fully booked.

The JAL Sky Museum is located in Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) at the JAL Maintenance Center 1 building (JAL M1 Building), which you can easily access using Tokyo Monorail and will give you beautiful views of the airport during the journey.

During the tour, you can take photos without any problem, but there are rooms where you can not take pictures or videos. After the tour, you must mail your pictures to JAL Sky Museum personnel, who will approve them.

Let's divide the tour into 2 phases: the building (rooms and exhibitions) and the hangars.

JAL Maintenance Center 1 Building

You must arrive at the reception about five minutes before your ticket hour. At the reception, they will give you your “JAL Guest Card” pass with a beautiful lanyard you can take home. This guest card will be your pass to all the tour sections.

When you enter the building, you go to the waiting room with a panoramic view of the Hotel and Golf taxiways. From here, you can take photos while waiting to start the tour. You can see the Skytrax awards given to Japan Airlines in this room.

The next room you will visit is the “classroom,” one of those zones where you can not take photos. In this place, the museum personnel will explain the tour, discuss safety, and discuss the airline's history and museum.

Unfortunately, the tour is in Japanese, and they just do some tours in English every month, so if you do not speak Japanese, you will not understand anything during this phase.

Luckily, there is always someone who works in the museum and knows English, so they will probably give you the most relevant information about the tour, like where you can take photos or safety limits.

When that phase ends, you have free time to visit the “Sky Runway” and all the rooms. In the big hall, screens show videos of the airline and exposed objects like a JAL Cargo ULD. At the end of the corridor is a 737 classic series cockpit mock-up, which you can visit.

It is almost fully functional, which makes you feel like you're in a real cockpit. They have the JAL Sky Suite and JAL Sky Premium Seat close to the cockpit mock-up, which you can try. In this zone, you can dress like a pilot or flight attendant and take photos with the uniforms.

The first room you will see is the “Archives Zone.” This zone explains JAL's history and contains memorabilia, such as special livery designs, artifacts, and all the uniforms JAL ever used.

There is also an exhibition of all the aircraft JAL has ever operated, where you can read some interesting facts about each aircraft; for example, the Airbus A350-900 is the first Airbus plane Japan Airlines operated.

On the same floor is an interesting room called the “Imperial Exhibition,” where memorabilia about imperial flights, the interior of the planes used for the emperor, documents, and photos are displayed. Photos are prohibited in this room.

To end this floor, you can visit the store to buy JAL products, aircraft models, keychains, etc., for much less than you can buy them in other stores.

Japan Airlines Hangars

The JAL Sky Museum also includes a visit to the Japan Airlines maintenance facilities, which is the most exciting part of the tour.

The first hangar you visit is the Hangar 1, used for long-term maintenance. The dimensions are 40m in height, 100m in depth, and 175m in width. Inside this hangar, they can fit up to three aircraft at the same time. On the day of the visit, an Airbus A350-900 was in the hangar under work.

The next stop is Hangar 2, used for more minor reparations; usually, planes only spend one day here. The dimensions are almost the same, but the width increases to 200 meters, making the hangar two bigger than the previous one. Here, they can fit six planes at the same time.

On the day of the visit, there was the A350-1000 JA03WJ, which arrived from the Airbus factory in Toulouse(TLS) just three days before our visit, there were 2 Boeing 737-800 and a Boeing 777-300(ER), and also we saw the nose of the DC-8-32 JA8001 called “Fuji” which is stored inside the hangar. 

The doors to Hangar 2 were opened during our visit, and the personnel gave us time to enjoy the Haneda Airport(HND) traffic and take photos. 

More than 1,200 people work daily in these hangars to keep the Japan Airlines fleet flying and also do maintenance for companies like the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF).

Unfortunately, at this point, the fantastic experience had to end; in my opinion, it is worth visiting the JAL Sky Museum if you go to Tokyo. If you like aviation, it is an exciting place to visit and see all the maintenance work they do inside, and you can also see planes closer.

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