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Michael H., Vernon, AZ
History & Mission
Planes of Fame Air Museum was founded by Edward T. Maloney in Claremont, California. The doors first opened on January 12, 1957. At that time, it was simply called "The Air Museum". There was no need to be more specific, because no other air museums existed in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River!
The original collection consisted of just 10 airplanes. From those humble beginnings, the Museum has grown to over 150 aircraft, more than 50 of which are flyable. But to understand the significance of this achievement, we have to look back to the days following WWII.
Although the Allies produced over 300,000 military aircraft during World War II, most were destroyed within just a few years of the war ending in 1945. The new jet aircraft being introduced had captured the imagination of the country, making the best propeller planes of the war seem obsolete almost overnight.
As the country retooled for a peacetime economy and GI’s returned home to start families, it was far more important to begin producing badly needed consumer products, than save the reminders of a war everyone was anxious to put behind them. With materials still in short supply, the aircraft that defeated the Axis powers and saved the Free World could now be bought by the pound for little more than the scrap value of their aluminum. A few were purchased by foreign air forces or collectors, like Ed Maloney, and survived. But most quickly fell victim to the smelter and met an inglorious end on the shelves of department stores as pots, pans or other products.
As a result, before most people even noticed or cared, many aircraft types disappeared entirely. In fact, a number of the aircraft on display at Planes of Fame Air Museum today are the sole surviving examples of their type. They exist only because a young Ed Maloney remembered the words of General “Hap” Arnold who instructed the Air Force to save at least one example of as many different aircraft as possible to create a national museum. This inspired Mr. Maloney to commit himself to the same goal, and many of the aircraft Museum visitors now enjoy, exist only because of his personal determination over more than half a century.
But Ed Maloney didn’t think it was enough to just display static aircraft in a museum, he wanted to create a flying museum, an idea that he pioneered.
Undeterred by the enormity of the task, a small group of volunteers, including future Museum president, Steve Hinton, set out to make the aircraft that had barely been saved from the smelters, flyable. Over 50 years later, the Museum’s commitment to that objective has enabled generations of Museum visitors to experience the sights and sounds of aircraft that otherwise would have been lost to history, but instead, grace the skies again with their beauty and speed.
As the Museum’s collection of aircraft and memorabilia continued to grow, it became necessary to find a new home with enough space to house more aircraft. In 1963, it relocated to nearby Ontario Airport in Ontario, California.
A few years later, in 1970, the non-flyable aircraft became part of the “Movie World: Cars of the Stars and Planes of Fame Museum” in Buena Park, California, located near Knott’s Berry Farm. Concurrently, the flyable aircraft relocated to Chino Airport. When Movie World closed, the name “Planes of Fame” stayed, since it perfectly described Ed Maloney’s museum.
Planes of Fame consolidated in 1973, this time to facilities at historic Chino Airport in Chino, California. This was fitting as the airport was formerly the home of Cal Aero Academy, which was an Army Air Corp flight training facility. The academy trained over 10,000 pilots prior to the end of WWII, making it a perfect location in which to restore and give new life to the aircraft these men had flown into combat just two decades earlier.
As more and more aircraft were restored and the collection grew, an additional display facility was opened in Valle, Arizona in 1995. Located halfway between Williams, Arizona and the south rim of the Grand Canyon, it houses over 40 of the Museum’s aircraft, many of which are also flyable.
Growth continued at Chino, too. In 2002, the Enterprise Hangar was opened. Designed to resemble the hangar deck of a WWII Navy aircraft carrier, it contains a number of items from the U.S.S. 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.
The Chino Facility underwent further expansion in 2004-2008, with the construction of two new hangars, new offices, a gift shop, library and Aviation Discovery Center youth education center. Display areas for jets and other aircraft of the Korean War, Cold War, and Viet Nam war were also added. A larger library was added in 2014.
And 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.
While the journey from 10 original aircraft to over 150 has been a long one, the mission has never changed. It is the Mission of Planes of Fame Air Museum to preserve aviation history, inspire interest in aviation, educate the public, and honor aviation pioneers and veterans. And although the Museum spans the history of manned flight from the Chanute Hang Glider of 1896 to the Space Age of Apollo, many more chapters remain to be written and many more stories told before the vision of a young Ed Maloney is finally fulfilled.
Chino, CA Facility
Valle, AZ Facility