Regular readers should know by now that if there’s an aviation museum near where we find ourselves, Chuck is going to drag Lori to see it. There was the tiny but fun Solent Sky Museum in Southampton, for example, the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum several times prior to that, and there will be more in upcoming blogs (hint).
While in the Palm Springs area, then, we spent an afternoon at the Palm Springs Air Museum. While it hardly compares to the Smithsonian, it dwarfs the Solent Sky Museum. But one of the nifty unique things about the Palm Springs Air Museum is that most of their collection of WWII aircraft is operable. They are often, in fact, used in movies by nearby Hollywood, making them aviation celebrities.
F4U “Corsair” Fighter Bomber
F4F Navy “Wildcat”
While the mission of the museum focuses on the maintenance and exhibition of World War II combat aircraft, they have a fair amount of post-war jets, helicopters, and even a few automobiles. But the really cool artifacts are their working fighter planes, with names like Wildcat, Corsair, Hellcat, Thunderbolt, Tigercat, Bearcat (they loved their cats back then), Mustang, and more. These aircraft fascinate me, not only as a former pilot (though my flying experiences are limited to the 2-seat Cessna 152), but also as a kid-at-heart who used to build little plastic models of these planes.
One of their prize possessions is a B-17 Flying Fortress. Dubbed “Miss Angela”, the exhibit is supplemented with videos and storyboards telling the “human” stories of the aircraft as it was used in combat in Europe. The story that most comes to mind is the seemingly incredible instance where a crippled B-17 “landed”, mid-air, on top of another B-17 and the crew managed to bail out safely.
Another great aspect of the Palm Springs Air Museum’s aircraft is their vintage fuselage art. “Fly boys” of World War II loved to embellish their aircraft with pin-up models, bombs headed directly toward Hitler, and fear- (or fun-) inspiring cartoon imagery. We’ll leave you with pictures of a few of our favorite combat aircraft art from the Palm Springs Air Museum.