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ZOOM! Palm Springs Air Museum Flight Tours

Palm Springs Air Museum

Warbird Experiences

By Barbara Beckley

History flies through the skies at the Palm Springs Air Museum. And you can, too!

Did you know? You can actually fly into the wild blue yonder over Palm Springs in some of the world’s most famous fighter planes.

Imagine – Being buckled up in the seats that carried WWII paratroopers to the Beaches of Normandy. Where WWII fighter pilots cut their chops. P-51 Mustang pilots won WWII with air superiority. Korean War hot shots rescued downed comrades. And on the cushy side, Barron Hilton flew over his hotel empire.

It’s true. The Palm Springs Air Museum is one of the few where you can book high-flying rides in seven historic aircraft. A thrilling experience, to say the least. Relive history with a Palm Springs Air Museum flight on a “Warbird Ride” – or all – of these rare and vintage aircraft.

Palm Springs Air Museum

 C-47 Skytrain Air Museum Flights

A superlative military cargo plane that saw widespread use to transport men and material in every theater of WWII, carrying paratroopers and towing gliders full of soldiers and heavy equipment into battle. It’s best known for dropping thousands of paratroopers into occupied France before and during the Normandy D-Day Invasion in June 1944.

You’ll fly in the museum’s C-47 “What’s Up Doc,” built by Douglas Aircraft Company in Oklahoma and delivered to the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in early 1947. Its later assignments included Belgium in 1949; the French Air Force beginning in 1952; and the Israeli Air Force from 1967 to 1997, before arriving in Palm Springs in 2003. While it could carry 28 paratroopers, 14 stretchers and 10,000 pounds of cargo, “What’s Up Doc” takes 5-10 passengers per flight.

Palm Springs Air Museum-C47-Skytrain

PT-17 Stearman Air Museum Flights

The initial military training aircraft of US fighter pilots during WWII, it’s safe to say nearly every fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Air Force, and Royal Canadian Air Force got their start in a Boeing-built Stearman Model 75 biplane like this one. Post-war, many were sold to civilians, becoming popular as crop-dusters, sports planes and for aerobatics and wing-walking in air shows.

The 1941 Stearman at the Palm Springs Air Museum is unique. First, its engine offers double the horsepower of most. Second, it was previously owned by hotel mogul Barron Hilton, nicknamed “The Flying Innkeeper” for his love of planes. Upon his death in 2019, the Hilton family donated this one to the museum for safe keeping.

With only two seats; one for the pilot and one for the trainee pilot, the PT-17 Stearman takes one passenger at a time. You’re in front, facing the wide-open skies.

Palm Springs Air Museum-PT-17-Stearman

T-6 Texan Air Museum Flights

The North American Aviation-built T-6 Texan served as an advanced combat trainer aircraft during WWII for the U.S. Navy and RAF. It was the final training before the pilots moved on to see action in their fighters. Post-war, the Texan continued to serve as a training aircraft before being phased out in the early 1950’s. In all, it trained several hundred thousand pilots in 34 countries. The versatile T-6 Texan also saw action as a fighter plane, winning honors in WW II and the early days of the Korean War.

In addition to rescuing downed pilots. The paint scheme of the museum’s beautiful T-6D is an authentic replication of the 354th Fighter Groups’ Squadron Hack, “Heave Ho,” in WWII. Part of the meticulous restoration by Pacific Fighters before the museum acquired it in 2021. Described as a “pilot’s airplane,” it can roll, Immelmann, loop, spin, snap, and vertical roll, for the best possible military training from ground strafing to bombardment and aerial dogfighting. Maybe ask your pilot to demonstrate? Again, with only two seats, the T-6 takes one passenger per flight.

Palm Springs Air MuseumT-6-Texam Warbird Rides

T-28 Trojan Air Museum Flights

In the years after WWII, this aircraft took over the T-6’s role as the advanced training aircraft, first flying in 1949 and continuing through the early 1960s. A limited number of T-28’s even saw combat in Vietnam. In the beginning in 1962 the U.S. Air Force modified more than 200 as tactical fighter-bombers for counterinsurgency warfare. Re-designating them as the T-28D “Nomad,” for close air support against enemy troops in Southeast Asia. The North American Aviation-built planes continued to fly in the Air National Guard until the late 1950s, and the U.S. Navy into the 1980s. As with the museum’s other trainers, there’s room for only two. You and the pilot. One passenger per flight.

Palm Springs Air Museum-T-28-Trojan

P-51 Mustang Air Museum Flights

Simply the best! Fly in the museum’s “Bunny” or “Man O’ War,” two of the most legendary fighters of WWII. Acknowledged better than the British Spitfire and better than Germany’s BF-109 in countless categories.

There is no more recognizable warbird than this long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during WWII, the Korean War and other conflicts. Designed in 1940 by North American Aviation, it was first flown by the RAF, competing with the Luftwaffe’s fighters. In 1943, the U.S. Air Force used it to escort bombers in raids over Germany; and as fighter-bombers by the U.S. Air Force and RAF ensuring Allied air superiority in 1944. The P-51 was also used by Allied forces in the North African, Mediterranean, Italian, and Pacific theaters. At the start of the Korean War, it was re-designated F-51, and became a specialized fighter-bomber. Following that conflict, Mustangs became popular civilian warbirds and air racing aircraft.

Bunny

“Bunny” was built in 1944 in Inglewood, California by North American Aviation and served with the U.S. Army Air Force until 1956. Meticulously restored to flight status by the Palm Springs Air Museum, it’s dedicated to Lt. Col. Bob Friend and the Tuskegee Airmen “Red Tails.”

Man O’ War

“Man O’ War,” a P-51D Mustang, was built in 1945, also by North American Aviation in its Inglewood factory. It was too late to see combat. But right on time for a starring role at Universal Studios. Purchased by Universal Studios in 1957 (after stints in England, and with New Jersey National Guard and U.S. Air Force), “Man O’ War” starred in the 1957 movie “Battle Hymn,” and was displayed as part of a Universal Studios attraction. Unfortunately, the attraction required a WWII fighter with a combat damaged appearance, so it was punched with holes and other deliberate damage done. In 1970, the P-51D was purchased from Universal. Purchased again in 1974 and given an authentic WWII paint scheme as “Man O’ War,” the personal aircraft of Lt. Col. Claiborne H. Kinnard, a highly decorated commander, with 25 enemy aircraft destroyed to his credit. “Man O’ War” is one of the few aircraft on loan to the museum.

Again, one lucky passenger gets to experience each of these legends.

Palm Springs Air Museum-P-51-Mustang

T-33 Shooting Star Air Museum Flights

Enter the jet age! The T-33 is the first ever U.S. jet training aircraft, developed by Lockheed, replacing the Trojans as a subsonic jet trainer in 1948 and continuing as an advanced trainer throughout the 1950’s. The museum’s T-33 joined the U.S. Air Force in 1951, and the U.S. Navy in 1961. After being retired from the service, it served as a pace plane at the Reno Air Races. In 2011, it landed at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Just you and the jet pilot. A worth-every-penny thrill at $4,995 per passenger, per flight.

Palm Springs Air MuseumT-33 Shooting-Star Plane

Impressive Beyond Belief 

Renowned as one of the world’s best, step inside the Palm Springs Air Museum and even if you thought you weren’t an air buff, you’ll be fascinated. Boasting more than 73 flyable and static aircraft from WW II, Korea, Vietnam, and Operation Desert Storm; plus, the newly acquired F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter jet, and Walt Disney’s personal Grumman Gulfstream, “The Mouse.”  All intelligently positioned within some 91,000 square feet of hangars and tarmacs, with displays and memorabilia depicting the wars and areas where each plane flew, putting everything in context. Plus, interactive experiences, shows, presentations, photo ops galore, and a large and unique gift shop.

Book A Ride

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