Bodø is a city of almost 50,000 people, the capital of Nordland, located just north of the Arctic Circle, and at the northern terminus of the Norwegian railway system. It was a place of great strategic importance in the Second World War and during the Cold War. Bodø has a long association with the Royal Norwegian Air Force, which maintains a base nearby from which fighter jets regularly fly over the city.
The Norwegian Aviation Museum, located in a strikingly beautiful modern building, has a collection of aircraft of international significance, divided into military and civilian sections. The former includes some notable aircraft from the Second World War, including, from Germany, a Junkers Ju52 transport plane and two Junkers Ju88 bombers, and from Great Britain a Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter, of a type particularly associated with the unsuccessful Norwegian campaign of 1940, a de Havilland Mosquito of the kind which maintained connections between Britain and the Norwegian resistance, and a Supermarine Spitfire fighter. There is also an American Consolidated Catalina flying boat. The outstanding exhibit from the Cold War period is an American U2 spy plane. The American pilot Gary Powers, who was shot down when piloting a plane of this type over the Soviet Union in 1960, had taken off from an airfield in Pakistan and was intending to land at Bodø. A Swedish Saab 991B Saffir is also displayed, and the reserve collection includes more Saab aircraft and several from the former USSR. The museum has a lively programme of activities including demonstrations of the ejector seats fitted to fighter jets, and opportunities to design aircraft which can be tested in a wind tunnel.