A World War II veteran, Robert Pond collected vintage aircraft—some in good condition and some needing repair. But the former Navy aviator wanted to be sure his beloved aircraft would never be destroyed or sold for junk metal.

As further protection for his World War II aircraft collection, Pond and a group of veteran pilots decided to open an air museum. On Nov. 11, 1996, the Palm Springs Air Museum was founded with Pond’s 14 aircraft and a mission “to preserve, educate, and honor.”

“Today, we have about 80 different airplanes from aviation past and present,” says Greg Kenny, operations manager for the Palm Springs Air Museum in Palm Springs, California. “Our newest one this past April was an F-117 stealth fighter, a very unique aircraft that was just recently retired. You can get right up next to it here.”

The Lockheed Martin F-117 Nighthawk was covered in black paint to make it more difficult to spot during its late-night missions. The attack aircraft, nicknamed the Black Devil, was widely publicized for its role in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

The Palm Springs Air Museum is unusual in that the planes can be flown and are displayed in five well-lighted, air-conditioned hangars. “We have no ropes to keep you from interact- ing with the exhibits,” Kenny says. “You can see our planes fly, smell and hear them, and watch as we work on them.”

B-17 cockpit
Credit: Palm Springs Air Museum

A crew of trained and knowledgeable volunteers—many of them veterans and retired pilots—can provide details on the history of each aircraft and a sense of the experience of flying them. Visitors can even climb aboard a plane for an exciting “warbird” ride. “The rides make a wonderful gift for someone, and there is a variety of price levels,” Kenny says.

The air museum offers discount prices for groups as well as box lunches, plane rides, and special guides. The museum also has a cafe, library, gift shop, and theater. Operators should allow at least two hours for a group tour. Tour coordinators and motorcoach drivers are comped.

“We have volunteers with various backgrounds in the military and the aviation industry who serve as our guides,” Kenny says. “Everybody here has a passion for aviation.”

For more information on Palm Springs Air Museum, call 760-482-1839 or visit palmspringsairmuseum.org.

Main image: Lockheed Martin F-117 Nighthawk; Credit: Palm Springs Air Museum

Article by Jackie Sheckler Finch