Founded in 1957 by Edward T. Maloney, the Planes of Fame Air Museum has one of the largest collections of operational and static rare aircraft in the nation! The museum has two locations, one in Chino, California and the other in Valle, Arizona. I recently visited the Chino location at 7000 Merrill Avenue, Suite 17 just within the historic Chino Airport. There I was joined by two of the museums volunteers who were both very knowledgeable and eager to share this wealth of information with visitors.
When you enter the facility just off of Cal Aero Drive, you can’t help but notice the B-17 Flying Fortress just to the left of the entrance to the museum. Visitors can board this craft and experience firsthand what it was like to be in this is four-engine heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps. There were 12,731 of these bombers built between 1936-1945 at a unit cost of $238K.
After entering the facility, guests proceed to the museum gift shop where they can purchase their admission stickers. From there, visitors can immediately access the Edward T. Maloney Hangar where you can find the Apollo Capsule, the Northrop N9MB flying wing and the Wright Brother’s Flyer to just name a few. From there you can enter the Pond Hangar which contains the museums flyable aircraft. As a resident of Los Angeles, I was delighted to find actor, Steve McQueen’s plane here. Also housed in this hangar was the only flying Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter as well as the original Sakae engine and an Aichi D3A featured in the movie, “Tora Tora Tora.” The Planes of Fame Air Museum currently has the largest collection of Japanese aircraft of its type in the world. The Pond Hangar also houses the North American P-51A Mustang, the Grumman J2F-6 Duck used in search and rescue missions, as well as the Curtiss P-40N Warhawk that was flown in the movie, “Pearl Harbor.”
From the Pond Hangar, visitors can access the USS Enterprise CV-6 Hangar. Opened in 2002, the Enterprise Hangar was designed to resemble the hangar deck of a World War II Navy aircraft carrier, and contains a number of items from the USS Enterprise (CV-6), donated by members of her crew and flight squadrons. It also houses many aircraft typical of those that served on the Enterprise during the war.
To the right of the gift shop you will find the Foreign Hangar containing both static and flyable aircraft from Germany, England, Japan, etc. I was intrigued by the jungle setting showcasing the Mitsubishi G4M1 Hamaki. This was a main twin-engine, land-based bomber used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in World War II. The Allies gave the G4M the reporting name “Betty” and the Japanese Navy pilots called it Hamaki (Cigar), due to its cylindrical shape. Placed next to the Hamaki was the Japanese Navy Long Lance torpedo. The Long Lance was the finest torpedo in the world at the start of the Pacific War, and remained so until well after the war ended. It used pure oxygen rather than compressed air as its oxidizer, giving it enormous range and rendering it nearly wakeless.
Adjacent to the Foreign Hangar is the Theater and the Hands-On Aviation Youth Education Center that were added as part of the 2004-2008 museum expansion project. During this time, display areas for jets and other aircraft of the Korean War, Cold War, and Vietnam War, and a library were also added. Finally, in October of 2009 another new hangar was dedicated. It was built by the famous 475th Fighter Group to store their memorabilia, as well as house the Museum’s rare Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
The museum has approximately 150 aircraft in its collection. Of these, about 30 are flyable. Others are under restoration in the full-time Friedkin Restoration Hangar. The museum holds monthly mini-airshows centered around certain themes, such as, “World War I Aviation”, “Experimental Aircraft”, “Korean War Aviation”, “Airplanes In The Movies” and “Naval Aviation”. Each mini-airshow starts with a seminars given by people actually involved with the featured aircraft, followed by a flight demonstration of two or three aircraft related to that day’s theme.
It is very thrilling to immerse oneself in the history of our country and other countries through aviation. If you happen to be visiting Southern California, I would highly recommend the Planes of Fame Air Museum. There is something for everyone, old and young alike. However, a word of caution for those visiting during the summer months; only the entrance way and the gift shop are air conditioned. The hangars themselves get very hot during the summer and can put a bit of a damper on your visit therfore be prepared.
Web page: (http://planesoffame.org/)