The Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California, traces its origins to the late 1950s, making it one of the oldest private aviation museums. Founder Edward Maloney, who collected the core of the museum’s collection during the late 1950s and 1960s, is one of the first private individuals to assemble a group of World War II-era aircraft for display to the public as historic military artifacts. Because of this early start, Maloney was able to acquire several famous but very rare types, and the museum currently operates the only airworthy, fully original examples of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, Boeing P-26, a Seversky pursuit type, and a Northrop flying wing, among many others.
The current president of the museum is Steve Hinton, who is also the proprietor of Fighter Rebuilders, a restoration facility located on the Planes of Fame premises which restores aircraft both for Planes of Fame and other customers. Hinton is also one of the world’s most proficient pilots of World War II and Korean War vintage military aircraft and is frequently called upon to test-fly newly restored aircraft around the world, including aircraft that are the only flying survivors of their type and of which there are therefore no pilots with recent experience.
The museum hosts an airshow each May which is consistently one of the largest two or three World War II airshows in the world. It also stages events, generally the first Saturday of each month, in which a World War II aircraft is demonstrated. Its aircraft travel to airshows throughout the American southwest and occasionally venture to the midwestern U.S. A visitor on any random day has a good chance of seeing some aerial activity from one of the museum’s or a visiting vintage aircraft.
In 1995 the museum opened a satellite facility at Valle, Arizona, to display part of its collection. This is unfortunate for visitors inasmuch as a few significant aircraft, including the museum’s Messerschmitt Bf 109G-10, were sent to this out-of-the-way location and are now viewed by few visitors other than hard-core aviation buffs.
To see the Planes of Fame website, click here.