Palm Springs Air Museum
745 N Gene Autry Trail
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Just recently returned from by biennial trip to Palm Desert, funny I go there to enjoy the dry desert heat, but this year it rained. It’s strange that I had to go to the desert to experience rain! Oh well, such is the new California weather paradigm.
The Palm Springs area has a lot of wealth. I have never seen so many Bentley and Rolls Royce automobiles, not to mention Maserati’s, Ferrari’s, and Lamborghini’s. So, as you might expect the wealth is also expressed in the quality of the displays and aircraft at their air museum. I understand that up to a few years ago the gentleman who owned most of the aircraft allowed them to be flown on occasion. This fact really separated this museum from most! It is one thing to have an antique warbird and another to actually keep it in flying condition $$$.
The theme is this museum is World War II, although there are some contemporary fighter jets (including a Russian MiG-21) and choppers from the Vietnam era. The museum is comprised of three hangars: the first housing the Pacific theater aircraft, the second the European theater aircraft and the B-17 hangar. The aircraft are beautiful and have to be seen to be believed. For a small donation you can actually climb inside and tour Miss Angela, the B-17. While inside you can imagine what it would have been like to be on a combat mission in the freezing cold with the roar of the engines, the sounds of gunfire and chatter over the ships intercom. It was a real enough experience for me to know that I’m glad I never was put to the test.
To call this just an Air Museum is not to give it justice, for it is so much more than just aircraft that are on display. There are WWII model ships, wall displays that cover the complete history of the war, a café, and a section honoring women in aviation. My favorites are the murals painted by Stan Stokes. One of Stan’s murals is a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen (The Red Tails). This mural has been on tour around the country and to the Smithsonian Air Museum in Washington D.C. One of the P-51 Mustang’s flown by the airmen is also displayed.
Then there is the piece de resistance, you can go flying in a warbird! You and four friends can go for a flight in a C-47 Skytrain (same type of aircraft that dropped the airborne troops on D-Day). You can have the thrill of an open cockpit PT-17 Stearman (a type of aircraft that trained thousands of airmen). I saved the best for last, a ride in a P-51D Mustang (the escort fighter that made daylight bombing in Europe possible).
Yes, they do serve food. The day I was there they had a special on tamales, $2.00 each.
If you are ever in the Palm Springs area do yourself a favor and set aside a couple of hours to do the tour. There is something of interest for every member of the family. Of course it helps if you’re crazy about airplanes and history.