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Protectors of planes past at the Yanks Air Museum

Restored aircraft from the entire history of flight, preserved and restored at this Southern California museum.

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Geoffrey Morrison
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1 of 54 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

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. 

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Lear's Lear

Adjacent to the entrance is this Learjet 23 that was actually owned by William Lear himself. It also holds a transcontinental speed record.

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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. 

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Legends

The first stop is the Legends hangar, a mix of WWI- and WWII-era aircraft. 

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Rare resto

The US Navy created the Naval Aircraft Factory to build its own aircraft starting in 1917 until the end of WWII. This is the N3N Floatplane. The rare center float was found in Northern California. It was being used as a flower bed.

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Gyro

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.

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Flying thunder

This is the only flying P-47M Thunderbolt in the world, and it was restored to flying condition here at the museum.

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Owl observation

One of three O-52s observation aircraft left in the world.

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Mitch

One of the largest aircraft inside the museum is this airworthy B-25 Mitchell.

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Bay of bombs

Depending on the mission and variant, the B-25 could carry around 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg) of bombs.

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Open cockpit

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.

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Two 51s

This is a surprisingly rare sight: early- and late-model P-51s side by side. Most museums have one or the other.

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Big nose

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. 

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Biplanes

Most of the museum's earliest aircraft are lined up in a row for easy viewing.

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Paramount star

This de Havilland Gipsy Moth was owned by Paramount Studios and was used in movies.

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Waco stunner

This Waco UEC is powered by a 210 hp 7-cylinder radial engine. 

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The spirit of the Spirit

Most museums with Ryan Broughams have them converted to resemble the most famous of the type, the Spirit of St. Louis. It's interesting to see one retain its front windscreen.

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American eagles

A Waco GXE on the left, and a rare American Eagle A-101 on the right. The brushed-metal of the cowling was made popular by the Spirit of St. Louis.

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Hell's angel

This Thomas-Morse S-4C starred in the movies Hell's Angels, Lafayette Escadrille, and Dawn Patrol.

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Starfighter hangar

As you step in to the Starfighter hangar, you're greeted by an F/A-18 Hornet. But not just any F/A-18...

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Blue Angel

This example flew with the Navy's flight demonstration squadron, aka the Blue Angels. The livery might have given that away.

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Furious

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.

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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. 

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Photo-worthy

This immaculate F-9 Cougar is the -8P spec designed for photo reconnaissance. 

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Skyhawk

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.

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Rare Tiger

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.

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View

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. 

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Taiwanese F-5

The Northrop F-5 in the foreground flew for the Taiwan Air Force for 24 years.

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Teens

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.

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Falcon

The sleek, slender lines of an F-16.

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Two-seater

This is the less-common two-seat F-16B model. Primarily they were used for training, though could fill other roles as well.

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Size

The F-16 is roughly 25% smaller than the F-15, but due to its design seems smaller still.

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Old bird

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.

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Older bird

The last of the Century Series fighters, the F-106 Delta Dart first flew in 1956. This particular aircraft was built in 1958, and served in various roles including as a chase plane for the B-1B program, until 2003.

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Jump jet

A first-generation Harrier, the AV-8A, capable of vertical takeoff and landings.

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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.

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Well-traveled thunder

This F-84 Thunderjet was stationed in Texas, West Germany, the UK, Alabama, multiple locations throughout the mid-West and now, finally, here.

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Mid-engine

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.

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GM Wildcat

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.

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Skinny Cobra

The impossibly skinny Bell AH-1 Cobra.

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Huey adjacent

The Cobra used many components from the famous UH-1 Huey transport helicopter. 

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SoCal Goose

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.

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Yanks Widgeon

A beautiful Grumman G-44 Widgeon, restored at the museum. Love the colors.

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Shiny Electra

A Lockheed Model 12 Electra Jr, specifically one of 10 UC-40As that served with the Army Air Corps.

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Ongoing restoration

One of the museum's restoration experts working on a Cessna 172.

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Doubtlessly Dauntless

The unmistakable wings of the SBD Dauntless.

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Restoration hangar

The Restoration hangar is packed full of aircraft. 

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Projects

Multitasking seems to be required. Can't just sit around waiting for parts to arrive.

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Bobcat

A Cessna UC-78 Bobcat in midrestoration. We saw a restored one of these at the amazing Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum.

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Wood

I can't imagine the painstaking and labor-intensive lengths it takes to restore an aircraft. Look at all those pieces.

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Wings awaiting

Biplane wings awaiting an aircraft.

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Helldiver

An SB2C Helldiver and its Wright R-2600-20 18-cylinder radial engine.

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King in pieces

The museum's flyable P-63 Kingcobra with its midmounted Allison V-12 out for maintenance.

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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

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