04 October 2013

Tourist In My Own Town: 3 Vintage Airplane Museums

stamped concrete at Planes Of Fame Museum

You may be wondering what vintage aircraft have to do with a blog about stylish and simple living. Read on. You'll see that if you are a fan of gorgeous architecture, color, design and adventure this post fits right in. Recently The Man and I took a day and visited two vintage airplane museums in Chino, California. The Chino Airport complex is a major gathering spot for vintage aircraft in the United States. They are everywhere. It's amazing what you see just on the airport runways, not to mention what you might see flying overhead.

The first museum we visited was Yank's Air Museum. It was inspiring. Just walking into the first room at the museum you could feel the excitement and energy of the early days of aviation in this country. I thought of Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and thousands of other less famous pilots who had a major role in the development of the air flight industry in the United States. It's so fascinating that in early days of aviation, having a plane was similar to buying a car and there was the thought that everyone could be a pilot, very much like how everyone drives cars now.

Seeing the gorgeously built wood framed planes was just amazing. If you like color, artwork, and handmade things there is plenty to love at an aircraft museum! I loved seeing all the old private planes and the evolution of the military planes too. The workmanship was so beautiful. All the planes have been lovingly restored to operational standards and the paint work was stunning. At Yanks you could walk through hangars of aircraft, including some very amazing military jets that you often don't see up that closely. You could also walk through their work space where they are currently restoring aircraft.

At Yanks we ran into two of the guys who run the place and had nice, long visits with each of them. One took us out to the yard to see all the yet to be restored aircraft they have. It was fun to wander around and hear his stories about where the planes came from and what their plans are for them. The Yanks guys only restore American made airplanes.

It made the visit even more meaningful to be able to talk to the guys who know the planes and have worked to restore them and bring them all together. The Man is a big plane buff, so he loved talking shop with them.

The second museum we visited was Planes of Fame which is actually just down the street from Yanks, both situated at the Chino airport. Here we met some amazing World War II veteran volunteers. It was great to hear their stories and learn from them. It sad to think that the greatest generation is now mostly in their late 80s or 90s. They won't be with us much longer. I'm sad to see us lose that generation of great people.

At Planes of Fame there were several hangars you could walk through, full of aircraft as well as a yard full of planes and other vehicles that are waiting for restoration. You can imagine what a challenge it is to come up with the money to restore each plane. Not to mention doing the research on how they were built and finding the parts or making the parts to restore them. At Planes of Fame they also had some British, German and Japanese aircraft.

I wish I had taken my other cameras. I ended up relying on my phone camera for all these shots and I killed the battery twice, once at each place, while recharging it during our lunch break. Here's an idea of what some of these beautiful aircraft look like before restoration.

I have always been interested in World War II. I imagine myself a young lady who would've gotten involved somehow, maybe been a spy or something exciting. So while I'm certainly no airplane buff, I enjoy visiting museums that The Man is very interested in and I always enjoy myself and find interesting things to learn about. If you are a student of creativity and ingenuity you'll find lots to enjoy at an aircraft museum.

In the past month we've now visited three vintage aircraft museums. Another great one to visit is the Palm Springs Air Museum, surprisingly located (haha) right by the Palm Springs Airport. Apparently it's ranked #2 best out of 65 attractions in Palm Springs. We had a great day there last month.

I will say that two big air museums was a little overwhelming by the end of the day. It got very hot in the afternoon, to the point that just being outside you could feel your skin burning. We were hot, tired and exhausted by the end and made it home for a quick dinner before collapsing into bed early. Southern California has such an amazing and rich place in American history and certainly in the aeronautics industry thanks to people like Howard Hughes and others. As I say repeatedly, SoCal is about more than Disneyland, as lovely as that great amusement park it. I really encourage people who visit to do more than just see amusement parks and the beach. There are lots of inspiring things to see and do beyond the five to ten major tourist attractions.

Here are a few other awesome places to visit in SoCal:

The Huntington Library and Gardens Visit One and Visit Two

all images by kalanicut

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