The engine sputters, then roars to life. Two thousand horsepower thunder, spinning the thirteen-foot propeller into a whirling blur. The noise is thrilling, the blast from the propeller blows at the excited spectators standing safely only a few feet away. For many, this is the closest they have ever been to a World War Two warbird as it bolts to life. At the Planes of Fame Air Museum on the Chino Airport, this “Flying Demo” is repeated every month as the Museum brings aviation history to life.
Earlier in the day, guests were treated to “Hangar Talk,” a series of engaging presentations on various topics from aviation’s colorful past, its fascinating present, and its promising future. Museum Guides provide visitors insight into the history of the Museum’s nearly 150 aircraft and hundreds of artifacts on display. Arts and crafts activities for younger visitors teach the fundamentals of aviation. The Gift Shop is stocked with aviation-themed items for all ages.
But now, as the crowd delights in the sights and sounds of the historic aircraft flying overhead, those in attendance are temporarily transported back in time.
The Rich Aviation History of the Chino Valley Chino Airport, nestled on the border of the cities of Chino and Ontario, was carved out of agricultural land in 1940. That was when the United States Army Air Force contracted with the Cal Aero Flight Academy for training its newest cadets.
Cal Aero provided the first ten weeks of flight training called Primary Training, and the second ten weeks of Basic Training. The school accommodated 1,500 cadets and 200 training aircraft.
Cal Aero earned a reputation as the “Country Club of the Air.” Cadets were housed in private quarters – two to a room with twin beds and two desks. They shared a bathroom with two other cadets. Mess Hall meals were created by chefs hired from the finest restaurants in Southern California. The recreation room featured an exotic lounge called the “Bamboo Room.” Said one graduate, “In my 25 years in the Air Force, I never ate or slept as well as I did at Cal Aero.”
From August 1940 until October 1944 when the school closed, 10,365 cadets graduated. Many flew with distinction during the Second World War.
Beginning in late 1944, the U.S. government stored over 2,000 warbirds at the Chino airfield. These were being staged for the expected invasion of Japan. But, when the war ended in August 1945, these aircraft were made available for sale. Buyers proved scarce, so the government chose instead to destroy the aircraft on-site, chopping them up and smelting them into aluminum ingots.
Out of Destruction – Preservation
Observing this drastic dismantling of aviation history was an 18-year-old Pomona youth named Ed Maloney. Horrified, Ed vowed to dedicate his life to saving as many aircraft as he could.
That decision became a life-long pursuit. For the next seventy years, using his knowledge as a historian and with the skills of a detective, Ed Maloney tracked down and rescued over 250 historic aircraft – preserving them for future generations.
Today, most of these aircraft comprise the Planes of Fame Air Museum collection. They reflect aircraft from the early days of flight up into the jet age. Many are incredibly rare – some of the last surviving examples of their kind. These planes, plus artifacts and memorabilia, are smartly displayed in seven hangars. But Planes of Fame is no ordinary museum, it is a flying museum. Nearly 40 aircraft in the collection have been restored to flight.
History can teach. History can inspire.
Planes of Fame Air Museum, located right here in our own backyard, is Chino Valley’s local treasure that we share with visitors from around the world.
Now in its sixty-sixth year, the Museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. Come visit, and take a guided tour to hear stories that inspire. Encourage your child’s school to take an educational field trip. Bring the whole family to discover how aviation has affected our lives.
For more information, the Museum’s website contains schedules of upcoming flying events and other interesting facts. Check out planesoffame.org.
For more information, the Museum’s website contains schedules of upcoming flying events and other interesting facts. Check out planesoffame.org
“These aircraft comprise the Planes of Fame Air Museum collection. They reflect aircraft from the early days of flight up into the jet age. Many are incredibly rare – some of the last surviving examples of their kind.”