By Fred “Crash” Blechman
On January 6, The Air Museum Planes of Fame opened a new hangar, during the museum’s 50th anniversary celebration. An estimated crowd of 700 was then treated to the sight of 12 propeller-driven warbirds flying overhead.
Edward T. Maloney founded the museum in January 1957, in Claremont, Calif. It was the first permanent air museum in the American West. In 1973, the museum moved to its present location at Chino Airport, 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.
The museum has a collection of 150 aircraft, 40 in flying condition, and major exhibits housed both at Chino Airport and at its auxiliary facility at Valle Airport, near the Grand Canyon, which opened in 1995. The Chino facility alone has nine hangars and buildings. Some of the museum’s aircraft are the only flying examples of their type in the world, and a few are the only representation of their type in existence.
The museum is an independent, nonprofit, educational institution, staffed mostly by volunteers, and is dedicated to preserving aviation history for the benefit of future generations. The new 15,000-square-foot Edward T. Maloney Display Hangar was host to the 50th anniversary celebration. Four aircraft were displayed in the hangar: an HD1 Hanriot French WWI fighter plane, an F4B-3 pre-WWII U.S. Navy biplane fighter, a P-26A U.S. Army Air Corps pre-WWII fighter and a 50-year-old, full-size Wright Flyer replica. A large montage, in front of the decorated stage, showed a pictorial museum history, with more than 60 photos. Many aircraft were displayed outside.
Although 200 folding chairs were set up in the hangar for the museum’s typical, monthly first-Saturday crowd, by the time the ceremonies began at 10 a.m., the number of people standing at the rear and sides of the hangar greatly exceeded those seated. It was a testament to the interest in this event.
Steve Hinton, president of the museum for 12 years, took the podium after a flag ceremony. The world-renowned warbird pilot pointed out that Planes of Fame is the oldest non-government aviation museum. Mark Foster, museum vice president and general manager, assembled a photo montage display and spoke about many of the museum’s aircraft, before introducing the new Chino airport manager, John Frymyer II.
Aviation journalist and photographer Frank Mormillo detailed the museum’s history, stating that Planes of Fame had the only flying, fully authentic Japanese Zero WWII fighter and that it was the first aviation museum west of the Rockies. Originally named The Air Museum, it began hosting air shows in 1963. To fly, the displayed planes had to be towed from the Claremont museum to Cable Airport.
Prior to the dedication of the hangar, Mormillo introduced Ed Maloney, to a standing ovation. Maloney started building model airplanes when he was 7 years old. He joined the Civil Air Patrol during WWII, and at its weekly meetings, he watched camera footage of aviation combat in Europe and the Pacific.
After the dedication, the crowd mingled in the hangar, enjoying anniversary cake and beverages. Then, the warbirds flew, two or three at a time. Guests watched two P-51 Mustangs, the P-26A, two AD Skyraiders, a F4U-1A Corsair, a F8F Bearcat, an English Spitfire, a P-40 Warhawk, a T-28 Trojan, a P-47 Thunderbolt and a P-38J Lightning.
On the first Saturday of each month, Planes of Fame hosts special events at its Chino facility. In May, it also hosts a two-day air show in Chino and in June, a warbird fly-in at the Valle facility. The museum offers a special membership program to the public. At each month’s special event, every attending member’s name is entered into a drawing for a free warbird orientation flight.
The museum is open to the public every day of the year, except Christmas and Thanksgiving, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $11, and children 11 and under are admitted for $4. Admission is free for museum members and accompanied children under 5.
For more information about The Air Museum Planes of Fame, call 909-597-3722, or visit