Winter getaway to Palm Springs Aircraft Museum

Winter spent lounging by the pool can get old, so here is something untypical to do when suffering through in sunny Palm Springs, CA. Go to the fabulous aircraft museum to relive an era in aviation. Open to visitors is a real B-17 bomber from World War II with access throughout from the nose to the tail. This is one of the few displays that let people go inside a restored aircraft that still flies. When seeing this airplane, it brought home a small part of what a relative had gone through behind a .50-caliber machine gun at a waist gunner station over Germany.

Inside the Palm Springs Air Museum the displays include a flight simulator open to guests. Along with the snack bar, library, and memento shop a visitor is fully entertained for hours beyond seeing the famous aircraft on display. See real period uniforms, replica models, weapons, and documents.

Old Guys Rule

Here is an advantage of a retirement-mecca location: Docents are surviving former airmen from World War II and later service with first-hand knowledge of the aircraft on display. If a unique question comes to mind it is likely answers are available.

Army and Naval Aircraft Hangers

Three large hangers house transport aircraft and power plant displays, aircraft of the Army Air Corps, and Naval Aviation aircraft.  These are aircraft that you can touch and bump into when ducking under the wing to look at something inside.

British Supermarine Spitfires did 448 mph at 26,000 feet and the one on display is a combat veteran that actually shot down a German V-1 Buzz Bomb over England. Close by, the P-51D Mustang displayed boasts 437 mph at 25,000 feet. Performance specifications when aligned between these two make for an endless discussion of the best propeller-driven fighter planes.

Army Aviation aircraft include B-25 Mitchell bomber, A-26 Invader (served in Viet Nam until 1970), Curtis P40 Kittyhawk, and P47 Thunderbolt.

George H.W. Bush, Naval Aviator

Not outdone is the naval aircraft display in the museum hanger. President George H.W. Bush as a 20-year-old was shot down in his TBM Avenger airplane at ChiChi Jima, near Iwo Jima Island. His airplane is at the bottom of the sea, but an Avenger on display rests near its soulmates; SBD Dauntless dive bomber, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat, and the gull-winged F4U Corsair.

Jets on Display

Jets on Display

Outside on the tarmac and surrounding green areas there are a Douglas A4 Skyhawk, McDonnell/Douglas F4 Phantom from the USS Midway (including five MiG kills placard), and nearby a real MiG 21. Climb up and look inside the cockpit of these famous jet fighters and see how Spartan they are given the role is warplane.

Where to stay

Mid-twentieth century lodging located in the prime areas can be had for surprisingly reasonable sums and these often include local color of movie stars or celebrities. The Ingleside Inn is fully refurbished but with 1922 charm and fine dining on the premises. Nightlife at the Purple Room Supper Club captures the glitz of classic crooner songs from Sinatra and the Rat Pack.

Palm Spring Small Hotels association website is the place to delve into the wide variety of accommodations.

If not already at Palm Springs having come to its international airport, consider traveling over the Hwy 74 route to see the desert flora change with increasing elevation up into the hiking trails. At the peak are pine trees, lower are oak trees, and still lower the brush dominates. Down at the valley floor,  the observant person down on the valley floor sees what appears uninhabitable, but is in fact teeming with desert life. Of course, those wanting to take in sights of everything at once can ride to the top of a mountain via the famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.


The author had the pleasure of being compensated by the hosts while he visited.

Parts of this article were previously published on

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