The Palm Springs Air Museum is “where history comes alive,” as the museum says. In the four hangars of this 20-year-old museum, planes from WWII are on display. And every plane here can be flown. The planes are shiny and beautiful and well maintained, making the air museum a fascinating and attractive place to spend an afternoon.
Bob told us that as many as 16 of these planes were assembled in one day during WWII. They were then flown by women – WAVES – across the U.S. to be taken to England. These women are finally being recognized for their service and are now allowed to be buried in Arlington.
Moving down the plane, you walk on this narrow metal band. The black side rail ropes are added for the public but weren’t on the original plane. So men were high in the air in temps of -50 degrees, with the plane swaying, perhaps being shot at, and they scurried back and forth across this metal plank that was open to the skies. It’s mind-boggling.
The most dangerous role on these bombers was that of ball turret gunner. This young man hung below the plane in a clear capsule (visible to the enemy) to man his gun. Quarters are too tight to allow this man to wear a parachute. If the crew had to bail out, this guy had to climb up into the plane and then strap on his parachute while the plane was plummeting to earth. The bravery of these flyers was immense.
Another display that captured my interest is the one about WWII gliders. These were “towed” into the air and glided into enemy territory. No power or engine is involved, so once they landed, their use was over. They held 13 men who hopped out once they landed behind enemy lines. Most of the gliders lay in ruins in France after the war, but a training glider from England survived and is on display at the air museum.
A delightful aspect of touring the air museum is that you can meet and talk with so many of the volunteer guides. They are all friendly and knowledgeable. This “young” man, age 90, worked as a teenager on airfields in England during WWII. He has retired in Palm Springs and spends hours each week telling visitors about the planes on display.
The guides have name tags with stars. Each star represents 250 volunteer hours. One crew chief had 5 stars. That is a LOT of hours. You can tell all the men love being around here. Their enthusiasm will make your visit memorable!
The newest hangar has planes from the Korean and Vietnam wars, along with videos about the Cold War and the Berlin Airlift.
History is preserved here for all ages to learn about and explore, hands on. If you’re in Palm Springs, take a few hours away from relaxing poolside and visit the riches of the Palm Springs Air Museum.
The museum is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is $17 for adults, $15 for youth, and $10 for children ages 6 to 12. Newly available: a 20-minute flight in a P-51 Mustang for $1,895!
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