Protectors of planes past at the Yanks Air Museum
Yanks Air Museum
Located in Chino, California, the Yanks Air Museum is a unique collection of American aircraft. An on-site restoration shop offers a glimpse at the painstaking work that goes into restoring these aircraft.
Adjacent to the entrance is this Learjet 23 that was actually owned by William Lear himself. It also holds a transcontinental speed record.
Eyes in the sky
At the far end of the parking lot is an E-2 Hawkeye early warning aircraft. This basic design is still in production and in service with navies all over the world.
This one dates from 1989 and served, among other places, on the USS Independence and in San Diego.
The first stop is the Legends hangar, a mix of WWI- and WWII-era aircraft.
This is a Kellett KD-1 autogyro. The rotor is unpowered, not connected to the engine at all. It spins as the aircraft moves forward, generating lift. This is the only surviving example of this type.
This is the only flying P-47M Thunderbolt in the world, and it was restored to flying condition here at the museum.
Bay of bombs
Depending on the mission and variant, the B-25 could carry around 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg) of bombs.
Occasionally the museum opens the hatches and lets people check out the inside of this aircraft. The hole in the tail is where the rear-facing guns were mounted.
This is a surprisingly rare sight: early- and late-model P-51s side by side. Most museums have one or the other.
This Lightning was originally built as a P-38L, but converted before it entered service to a photo recon F-5G. Lacking the guns and armor of other P-38s, this is the fastest variant.
Most of the museum's earliest aircraft are lined up in a row for easy viewing.
This Waco UEC is powered by a 210 hp 7-cylinder radial engine.
As you step in to the Starfighter hangar, you're greeted by an F/A-18 Hornet. But not just any F/A-18...
This example flew with the Navy's flight demonstration squadron, aka the Blue Angels. The livery might have given that away.
The North American FJ-1 was the Navy's first operational jet aircraft. It carried over many aspects of its design from the P-51 Mustang. It would evolve into the F-86, one of the most produced jet fighters of all time.
This example set a Seattle-Los Angeles speed record in 1948 of 1 hour, 58 minutes and 7 seconds. It is one of only two on display anywhere. The other is at the National Air and Space Museum.
Two seats, two rotors
One of only a handful of the rare, and rather odd, McCulloch MC-4. This one was restored at the museum.
The A-4 Skyhawk was one of the smallest jets ever flown by the US military, but was still able to carry a bomb load similar to a WWII-era B-17 bomber. The filled a variety of roles.
Only 200 F-11 Tigers were built; only a few more than a dozen remain. Like several other aircraft at the museum, it was used by the Blue Angels. This example was in surprisingly good shape when the museum bought it, only giving it a fresh coat of paint.
Not enough air museums let you get a view of the aircraft from above ... Yanks included. There was an area under construction and I sneaked up to the top of the stairs to get two photos.
Despite their large numbers, both in production and in museums, it's surprisingly rare to see these three aircraft next to each other. The F-14 on the left flew off the USS Enterprise and Kitty Hawk, and was otherwise stationed in the San Diego area.
This is the less-common two-seat F-16B model. Primarily they were used for training, though could fill other roles as well.
The F-16 is roughly 25% smaller than the F-15, but due to its design seems smaller still.
The F-15 is still in production, though that's due to end in the early 2020s, 50 years after its first flight. This -A model dates from 1979 and was retired from service in 1995.
Beginning of the Centuries
The first of the Century Series aircraft from the 1950s, the F-100 Super Sabre. First flown in 1953, the Air Force flew them until 1970, and the Air National Guard for nearly a decade after that.
This F-84 Thunderjet was stationed in Texas, West Germany, the UK, Alabama, multiple locations throughout the mid-West and now, finally, here.
The P-39 had a midmounted engine, allowing for the mounting of a big 37mm cannon in the nose. This was was discovered and recovered from an abandoned air strip in New Guinea. It's one of only three airworthy examples.
This is an FM-2 Wildcat, built by General Motors instead of Grumman, based on the latter's midwar updated design. It has a stronger engine and bigger tail than older Wildcats.
This Grumman G-21 Goose spent most of its life ferrying food, supplies and people between Los Angeles and Santa Catalina Island just off the coast.
A Lockheed Model 12 Electra Jr, specifically one of 10 UC-40As that served with the Army Air Corps.
The Restoration hangar is packed full of aircraft.
Multitasking seems to be required. Can't just sit around waiting for parts to arrive.
A Cessna UC-78 Bobcat in midrestoration. We saw a restored one of these at the amazing Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum.
I can't imagine the painstaking and labor-intensive lengths it takes to restore an aircraft. Look at all those pieces.
Biplane wings awaiting an aircraft.
Gateway to the boneyard
A C-123 Provider guards the entrance to the museum's boneyard. We did a full tour of that, too, which you can read about in Take these broken wings: Touring the Yanks Air Museum Boneyard.