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2005 The Doublestar Group

Warbird Alley
Photo Feature

The Air Museum - Planes of Fame
Chino, California

You'll find many pictures of perfectly-restored, shiny warbirds on our site, but we thought you'd like to see something a little different.

"The Air Museum - Planes of Fame" at Chino, California is one of the granddaddies of U.S. aviation museums. Through the foresight and hard work of founder Ed Maloney and generations of volunteers and employees since 1957, this large collection of both flyable and static-display warbirds represents a rare and special look at the history of aviation. Their yearly airshows and monthly educational programs are worth a future report of their own.

Since then, "PoF" has grown to become something of a legend among those who love old airplanes in their natural, un-restored state. In addition to conventional aircraft displays, the museum has what must be one of the most unusual, exciting "back lot" displays of military aircraft anywhere. The place makes you feel like you've stumbled upon a treasure-trove of historic airplanes, unknown to anyone but you. Here's a look at just a few of the many exhibits at Planes of Fame. Enjoy.

Click on photos to enlarge.

B-17 Turret

The nose turret of Boeing B-17G s/n 44-83684, "Piccadilly Lilly II," keeps watch on the distant San Gabriel mountains.

YP-59A Airacomet

This extremely rare Bell YP-59A Airacomet is under restoration to flying condition. The Airacomet was the first jet aircraft in U.S. service, and this example, s/n 12-108777, is believed to be the tenth airframe in the production run. It served at Santa Maria AFB, California in the 1950s. 

Super Corsair rudder

This rudder is about all that remains of the famous Hinton-Maloney F-2G Super Corsair, N31518 (Race #1), which crashed on March 19, 1994 at Williams Gateway Airport, Phoenix Arizona. Pilot Kevin Eldridge successfully bailed out after the engine caught fire. [Editor's Note: I was there that day in 1994, and watched the accident from start to finish. Kevin's survival is a further testament to my firm belief that you should wear a parachute, and train to use it, when flying fighter-type aircraft. Related article here.]

QF-100 tail

The orange tail is a clear indication that North American F-100 Super Sabre #56-3141 was converted to an unmanned QF-100 target drone in the last stages of its airworthy life, which included service in Vietnam. In the late 1980s, while being flown by Tracor Flight Systems in Mojave, California, it was the recipient of a missile fired during a U.S. Army test. The entire right-hand stabilator was blown off, along with much of the rudder and afterburner casing and rear fuselage skin. The fact that it was able to return for a landing is impressive. [Thanks to Dan Miller, former Tracor inspector, for the updated information about this aircraft.]

Beech TC-45J

The tattered aileron fabric on Beech TC-45J (Bu.No. 89468) flutters gently in the breeze. This U.S. Navy veteran now rests in anonymity under the California sun, surrounded by the silent carcasses of numerous other warplanes. It almost makes a tear come to your eye.

North American QF-86H Sabre

Not just cats have nine lives. North American QF-86H Sabre (s/n 53-1351) carries the markings of a target drone based at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, California. It also carries nine "missile-mission" badges on its flanks, evidence of lots of aerial weapons-training under its belt.

Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star

A trusty old Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star sinks slowly into oblivion.

Republic F-84 Thunderjet

The four-foot tall nose landing gear of a Republic F-84 Thunderjet. Anyone who has spent quiet, quality time with 1950s-era jet fighters (even if they're sitting dormant in a field), can tell you that these airplanes exude a certain, special feeling.

UC-45, F-89 and C-46

A Beech UC-45 Expeditor, Northrop F-89D Scorpion, and Curtiss C-46 Commando await their next assignments.

Pratt and Whitney R-2800 engine on ground

Everywhere you look at Chino Airport, there are airplanes and parts of airplanes. This engine, believed to be a Pratt & Whitney R-2800, might have powered a P-47, Hellcat, Corsair, B-26, A-26, Constellation, Convair, or other aircraft at one time. Perhaps it will do so again.

Bell X-2 replica

This replica of the rocket-powered Bell X-2 research aircraft (s/n 46-674) was reportedly used as a prop in several movies, including "Space Cowboys." It now sits, wingless, on a wheeled dolly behind a hangar in Chino. (For more information on the triple-sonic X-2 and its most famous pilots -- Pete Everest, Ivan Kincheloe, and Mel Apt -- see the West Mojave Aerospace Archeology Team's interesting X-2 page.)

Display cases

Inside one of the museum's buildings, a display case full of historic instrument panels is a very popular exhibit.

Seversky AT-12 Guardian

Change of pace: An ultra-rare Seversky 2PA/AT-12 Guardsman. Originally built for Sweden, only 72 of these aircraft were built. 50 of them were acquired by the U.S. Army Air Corps at the start of WWII, and this one is believed to be the only airworthy example.

F+W C-3605 Schlepp

There are only a few examples of the unusual-looking Swiss F+W C-3605 Schlepp target-tug aircraft left in the world. This one is in fair condition, and might someday be made airworthy again.

Mitsubishi G4M1 Himaki (Betty) bomber

The museum's display of a Mitsubishi G4M1 Himaki ("Betty") bomber of the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force faithfully recreates the aircraft's original jungle crash site.


There's a lot more to see at Planes of Fame. Numerous interconnected buildings and hangars give visitors a nearly endless series of surprises around each corner. 

Museum Information:

The Air Museum - Planes of Fame is located at the Chino Airport, approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, California. Operating hours are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. As of our visit date in July 2005, admission is US $8.95 for adults, $1.95 for kids under 12, free for children under 5. They have an excellent gift shop!

The museum recently opened another branch, the Planes of Fame Museum - Grand Canyon in Valle, Arizona. Many of the aircraft there are airworthy and flown regularly.

Both facilities are "must-see" stops for anyone who loves airplanes.


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