The Planes of Fame Air Museum has the largest collection of vintage military aircraft on the US west coast. The collection boasts German, Japanese, and Soviet military aircraft in addition to an extensive collection of US warbirds. The unique experience provides visitors the ability to enter the aircraft or watch flight demonstrations during Living History Days. The air museum has been in operation since 1957, and is celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. The museums’ mission is to preserve aviation history, inspire interest in aviation, educate the public, and honor aviation pioneers and veterans.
The Planes of Fame collection is extensive. Over 35 of the aircraft are in flying condition, and additional aircraft are in the process of restoration. The museum houses few replicas, quite a few are able to fly. While the entire collection is impressive, a few aircraft stand out due to rarity or special engineering features.
The Flying Wing is the only surviving tailless fixed-wing aircraft prototype of four created by Northrop Corporation. It was created at ⅓ size, with a total wingspan of 60 feet. The prototypes were used to test effects on drag.
The P-51A is one of the earliest variants of the North American Mustang. The P-51A uses the original Allison engine. This variation didn’t perform well at high altitudes, hence the engine switch for later variants.
The Mitsubishi Zero housed at the museum is the only flyable example of the type and uses the original engine. It was called the Zero because it entered service on the Imperial year 2600 (1940). The plane was known for maneuverability and long range.
The museum regularly offers Living History Days. During these events, visitors can watch one of the iconic warbirds take flight. The Planes of Fame Flight Schedule communicates which aircraft will be flown on each Living History Day or air show event. Visitors are encouraged to check the calendar to ensure that specific aircraft are at the facility on the date of their visit. Planes of Fame also hosts an airshow each spring. The 2017 airshow is scheduled for Saturday May 6 and Sunday May 7. Visitors will be able to see the F-35 Lightning II, P-51 Mustang, and many more aircraft take flight, view displays, and listen to the veterans panel. Visit http://planesoffame.org to purchase tickets.
The museum was founded by Ed Maloney. Ed grew up in the Pomona Valley area of California in the 1930’s. He was fascinated by aviation, watching flights from many of the area aircraft manufacturers. At the end of WWII, Ed witnessed massive amounts of warplanes being decommissioned and cut up for scrap. As a collector, Ed tried to purchase as many aircraft types as possible. He committed himself to try to save at least one type of the remaining warplanes.
Ed formed a group of volunteers to restore the aircraft to flying status. The expanding collection was moved to Ontario, California. The aircraft that could not be restored to flight were loaned to the Movie World: Cars of the Stars and Planes of Fame Museum in Buena Park. During the same period, flight ready aircraft were taken to the Chino Airport. When the Movie World museum closed, Ed continued using the name “Planes of Fame”, as it was a fitting description of his collection.
The Valle, Arizona facility was opened as the collection grew. Roughly 40 flyable aircraft from the collection are kept at the Arizona location. The Chino facility acquired additional aircraft flown in the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Cold War. The museum was updated, educational materials were added, and a new hangar was constructed to store 475th Fighter Group relics and the P-38 Lightning.