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Thomas W., Riverside, CA
Meet Our Founder Edward T. Maloney
Origins of the Planes of Fame Air Museum
Growing up in the Pomona Valley in the 30’s, I was surrounded by aviation. You may not remember, but Southern California was the world’s largest producer of commercial aircraft: Douglas, Lockheed, Convair, North American, Northrop, and Vultee. And there were so many small companies located here who were suppliers for the larger manufacturers. Lots of people worked in the aviation industry in those days.
I also witnessed flights of aircraft over my home before, during and after WWII. My friends and I read about all the famous pilots of the day as they made history with their latest daring feats: Charles Lindbergh, Howard Hughes; and war heroes: aces Dick Bong and Joe Foss, Robert Morgan and the crew of the Memphis Belle.
After the war, Cal Aero Field (Chino Airport) was used as a salvage station where the aircraft were brought to be scrapped and recycled into refrigerators and cars, all the products we had given up to support the war effort. I’d grab my camera and head out every so often to photograph the planes and watched the 18 foot steel cutters snap the noses off of B-17’s like they were toys. I saw house-sized mounds of aircraft technical manuals being burned. One of the men working told me I was welcome to all I could carry. I made quite a few trips to save as many books as I could.
Imagine my shock when I saw all the airplanes being cut up. Only a few of the trainers were being saved. It was that realization, that my children and grandchildren might never get to see these beautiful aircraft fly, that the engines that roared over my house would be silenced, that the men who flew them so valiantly would not be able to show their families the wonderful craft that had carried them safely home. I just couldn’t live with that. So the idea for an air museum was born. I opened the first aviation museum on the West Coast, The Air Museum, in Claremont, California in January of 1957 with ten aircraft on display there and our flyable B-17 at Chino Airport. We moved to Ontario Airport when we outgrew that facility in 1963. Then to Chino in 1973, as Planes of Fame Air Museum, where we still operate today.
I hope you enjoy looking at the aircraft, here on our website as well as at our Planes of Fame Chino or Valle locations. And be mindful of the contributions made by so many to design them, build them, fly them and now to... ‘Keep ‘em Flying!’