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Welcome to our blog!

Planes of Fame Air Museum has launched a blog to document its expansion project at the Santa Maria Airport.

January 5, 2023

By: Jane Hinton, Director of Development

Now that groundbreaking is in sight and with so many of our community members interested in project updates, we thought it would be fun to start documenting our expansion project. Here you will read about the latest project developments, museum events, and educational research. We are so excited to share this journey with you, so buckle up as we prepare for take off!

P-51 Mustang "Wee Willy II" coming around to land at the Santa Maria Airport.

It might help if we bring you up to date with what has happened up until this point. Location scouting, negotiations, planning, engineering, and generally preparing to begin construction.

Location, Location, Location

Let's start with our current location (Chino, CA) and the question of "Why not expand further at Chino?". When the museum first opened its Chino location in the 70’s, it was surrounded by agriculture and enjoyed open uncongested airspace. Growth in the Inland Empire has led to a significant increase in air traffic as well as dense housing tracts and industrial complexes being built where there were once open fields. These are no longer ideal flying conditions. The museum needs an auxiliary base for its flyable aircraft where safety of flight operations is a top priority while performing annual maintenance and test flights.

Thus began our search for a great general aviation airport with a runway at least 8000 feet long to accommodate our jets, favorable weather for most of the year, emergency services, and proximity to a population base for visitors. We started with a list of every airport in the USA and began narrowing it down. It was amazing how quickly the list shrank when we started crossing off locations due to our deal breakers: military bases, major airliner operations, too short runway, snow, natural disaster risk, too far from a major population base, etc. We were left with a few dozen airports in the southwestern US.

One of our first scouting trips was in 2016 to Texas to look at a few locations but ultimately we decided it would be too far from our home base in Chino to effectively rotate aircraft and maintain our current airshow schedule. We received proposals from many wonderful airports and met with amazing people while we searched for our new location but ultimately the Santa Maria Airport put forward the most attractive proposal. In 2021 we finalized a deal and signed an agreement for 23.89 acres. After years of location scouting, our search was over.

Phase One Design Rendering - 56,000 square foot three bay aircraft hangar.

Site Planning, Engineering, and Funding

Staring at a blank canvas can be intimidating, especially one the size of 18 football fields. We drafted dozens of layouts and spent hundreds of hours discussing and reimagining the site. Knowing that the museum would need to fundraise in order to build, we decided to develop the site in three phases. Right from the start, we'll need substantial hangar space and basic operational necessities (i.e. restrooms, office space, parking, etc.). We designed a 56,000 square foot Phase One building that would accommodate our basic operations.

The left wing will be used for aircraft restoration and maintenance, the large central hangar space will be used as our primary display hangar, and the right wing will function as additional aircraft storage as well as an educational auditorium and event space. The phase one building will also have a welcoming lobby, gift shop, offices, and museum display areas.

Phase One is estimated to cost approximately $12 Million. This will be the largest fundraising effort Planes of Fame has ever undertaken. As of today with the help of our leadership donors, we have raised nearly $7.5 Million toward our goal. We are now launching our fundraising campaign for the remaining $4.5 Million needed for the project and invite you to consider joining us in the effort and support the campaign.

Our new facilities at Santa Maria Airport will offer a safe haven for our flyable aircraft and ensure active aviation experiences will continue to inspire interest in history and flight now and for decades to come. We hope you join us for this exciting project!



Planes of Fame Air Museum is a 501 (c)(3) organization, Tax I.D. #95-6092771, eligible to receive tax deductible donations.


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