The museum tells the story of aviation on Long Island and, in doing so, chronicles the complete history of flight and Long Island's part in the history of aviation. It is located on land once part of Mitchel Field Air Force Base which, together with nearby Roosevelt Field and other airfields on the Hempstead Plains, was the site of many historic flights. In fact, so many seminal flights occurred in the area that by the mid- 1920's the cluster of airfields was already dubbed the "Cradle of Aviation", the origin of the museum's name. The museum originally opened with just a handful of aircraft in the un-restored hangars in 1980. A major renovation and expansion program in the late 1990's allowed the museum to re-open in a state-of-the-art facility in 2002.