Sunday, November 20, 2011

Planes of Fame Museum

Planes of Fame Air Museum was founded by Mr Ed Maloney in Claremont, California in 1957. From an original collection of only 10 aircraft, the collection now comprises over 150 across two locations in Chino, California and Grand Canyon, Arizona. The museum aims to keep these vintage aircraft in the air and have many restoration projects underway. We visited the Arizona museum on our way to the Grand Canyon. There weren't many visitors so I had the chance to talk a little with the volunteers manning the counter - but not for too long as while Shelly likes auto museums she doesn't find aircraft museums quite as interesting.

The museum has a great and informative website too -

This magnificentLockhead Constellation airliner graces the front gate of the museum. This aircraft was the personal transport for General Douglas MacArthur during this time in Japan and the Korean war.,cntnt01,default,0&cntnt01what=stplanes&cntnt01alias=VC-121A&cntnt01returnid=128

A Convair CV240 airliner. This plane is in flying condition.

View of the collection from the hanger doors. The Grand Canyon museum is smaller than the Chino museum, which holds the main collection, including a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress.

A replica of the World War I Nieuport 17 fighter flown by the American fighter ace, Billy Walker. Walker was one of a number of Americans who enlisted in the French flying corps at the outset of the war. Their squadron became known as the Lafayette Squadron, after a French general who served with Washington during the War of Independence.

A World War I Bristol F2B. The British Bristol fighters were sold to the US and many Allied nations in the aftermath of the war.

A World War I Siemens-Schuckert D.IV fighter from Germany. This non-flying example is a really rare survivor. The Treaty of Versailles banned Germany from possessing an airforce and all German aircraft were commandeered for war reparations or destroyed.

A Grumman G-32-A Flying Barrel.

A Stinson Reliant executive plane. Very sweet

A Stinson Sentinel air ambulance. These planes were used as transports, spotters and air ambulances during the Second World War and Korean Wars. My great uncle John owned one of these until recently. He had found it as a wreck at an Indian airfield during an epic round the world flight in the 1980s. He later purchased the plane and a wrecked Tiger Moth, had them shipped back to Australia and restored. I'll write something about that later.

A Messerschmitt Me-109G

It looks like a Japanese World War Two Aichi Val dive bomber but is in fact an American Vultee BT-15 converted to look a Val for the movies. The museum has an actual Val under restoration.

Douglas Skyraider. These aircraft were build too late for the WWII but saw extensive action in Korea and Vietnam.

North American Trojan T-28B

Douglas Invader bomber. Built towards the end of the Second World War, they saw service in Korea with the US Airforce and also in a number of foreign airforces.

A Ford.. and a bomb!

The museum strongly believes in keeping these machines flying. Many of these vintage planes have been picked up by retiring US airforce personnel in order to keep their flying dreams alive in retirement. Many however find that the expense of keeping the planes running difficult to sustain and, as with vintage cars and bikes, they can be a lot less fun to fly that they would appear. The Stinson Sentinel for instance was a rushed design during wartime and it has some poor handling characteristics that prevented it from enjoying a post war career. Generally, unless there is a special connection, the owners' children aren't keen to take on the responsibility and cost of maintenance so planes are handed over to the museum who display them and keep them flying.

There was also an extensive of aircraft models. This is a Northrop YB-35 Flying Wing. Northrop experimented extensively with flying wing designs. A prototype and pre-production versions of these four engined bombers were built after the end of the war but were too unorthodox for the Airforce. A jet version - the YB-49 - was also built but all were eventually scrapped. The two engined 1941 prototype is the only surviving example of this amazing machine. It has been restored to flying condition at the Chino air museum.

Outside the hanger are a collection of 1950s jet fighters. Being exposed to the elements, these planes look a little worse for wear.

From left to right, a Russian Mig-17, a British De Havilland Vampire and a French Aero Delfin L29.

Republic Thunderjet F-84B

A US Lockheed Shooting Star T-33A. These fighters went up against Russian Mig-15s & 17s during the Korean War.

The ubiquitous Russian jet fighter of the early Cold War era - the Mig-17. They were a popular jet fighter and sold all across the Soviet Bloc and Middle East.

The twin boom De Havilland Vampire was Britain's first operational jet fighter. The Vampire flew before the Gloster Meteor but due to engine problems did not reach front line units until after the Meteor was deployed in the last months of the Second World War.

Surprising as it sounds the Vampire is largely constructed of wood. The wings and booms are steel skinned but the rest of the body is composed of marine plywood. The weather has certainly taken its toll on this plane and the wood paneling is badly flaking.

An aircraft fuselage awaits its turn for restoration.

This interesting flying wing was a home built aircraft based on the designs of the German Horten brothers. The Horten's worked originally with tailless gliders before moving into powered aircraft. Their aircraft were always constructed of classic lightweight materials, such as doped canvas and plywood. The builder of this aircraft constructed his of fibreglass, a much weightier material. When completed the aircraft proved too heavy to get itself airborne. It was eventually donated to museum and is awaiting its turn for restoration.

A line of engines lying in the dust. I don't know what aircraft these come from.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful article and photos! I would love to have the opportunity to visit this place myself some day. The museum does a lot of good work; many of those "basket cases" out there will be gleaming gems someday. That Horton flying wing (Nurflogel) must be very rare! As for that last photo, I think I might be able to be of help - those look like cowlings for Pratt & Whitney R-4386 radials from a Boeing B-50 (but not a B-29!) bomber or a Boeing C-97 (KC-97) - the same engines found on the Strat. Anyway, thanks for letting me indulge in some aiplane viewing pleasure.