Museum of Flying

On the north side of the city of Santa Monica, California, just near the business park and its abutting airfield, sits a peculiar building with sheet metal and large windows and the nose of a FedEx plane hanging from the front. This is the Museum of Flying. It was founded in 1974 by Donald Douglas Jr. who was also the Douglas Aircraft Company’s second president.

The museum started on the south side, moved north and then in 2012 debuted its brand new building, where it resides today. The museum offers a wide variety of aviation-themed programming, which includes a museum collection housing original displays of Douglas Aircraft Company artifacts, as well as a number of exhibits, aviation art, and actual historic planes. Photo: Museum of Flying



When Donald Douglas Jr founded the organization in 1974, it began life as the Douglas Museum and Library. Nearly fifteen years later it moved to the north side and expanded its offerings. The museum was forced to shut down temporarily in 2002, but was resolved when it leased a new location from the City of Santa Monica near the airport. In 2010 the Museum of Flying began construction of a new building and in 2012 the new location opened. The museum now offers nearly 22,000 square feet of exhibition and display space.

The Museum of Flying’s expansive California campus offers a number of delightful activities and displays that will captivate both aviation aficionados and those without a keen interest in the history of American avionics. The museum is home to a variety of facilities and spaces to share its mission with the public.

The museum itself features almost 22,000 square feet of space devoted to all sorts of aviation information. The featured displays and collections of artifacts offer an history of the aviation industry in southern California over the last hundred or so years. Its collection includes more than 50 aircraft. Many of these crafts are still in flight-ready condition today. A centerpiece of the museum’s collection of historic aircraft is one particularly noteworthy vessel. The Douglas World Cruiser was known by its nickname as the “New Orleans,” and it was the first plane to fly around the world, in a flight that included another World Cruiser, the “Chicago” (now at home in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian Institute National Air and Space Museum). Photo: Museum of Flying

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Numerous exhibition spaces within the museum offer a chance to learn about history and also explore the various stories and art of aviation. In 1999, the museum hosted an event called “A Walk on the Moon.” This event presented seven former NASA astronauts who had traveled to the moon, and honored them for their participation in and contribution to the history of spaceflight. A year later, the museum celebrated the 60th Commemorative Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, where attendees were treated to the recollections and first-hand accounts of several surviving pilots from both the British Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe.

Other exhibitions have included artwork from artist, author and aviation historian, Mike Machat, a former official illustrator for McDonnell Douglas Corporation who has work housed throughout several important aviation centers in the U.S., including the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, National Air and Space Museum, and the Air Force Flight Test Center. Machat created three large scale murals that permanently reside at the museum and tell to visitors and viewers the story of the Douglas Aircraft Company.

Among the other aircraft in the museum’s collection are a replica of a Wright Flyer, the famous aircraft flown by the Wright Brothers and the first powered aircraft to achieve sustained flight. The museum exhibits a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, a replica of the Lockheed Vega, A BD-5 micro jet, a Cessna 172, and even the complete cockpit from a Boeing 727 as well as one from a Lockheed T-33. Photo: Museum of Flying

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The Lockheed T-33 cockpit is part of the Museum of Flying’s educational center for children. Underneath a 1/6 scale replica of an Eastern Airlines DC-3, which even has working propellers, the children’s area offers a variety of exhibits, displays and information for young children and their parents to learn about the history of aviation, the types and varieties of aircraft and even a chance to learn about some of the concepts and terminology that serve as the basis of the science of flight. Visitors can learn about the cockpit and how it is used in the T-33 cockpit trainer, which includes audio from live pilots flying throughout the area. The nose of a FedEx Boeing 727, which can be seen protruding from the front of the museum building, includes the actual controls that visitors can explore and learn about.

The museum expands on its offerings for young learners with its A’s Award Flight Program. At various predesignated times throughout the school year, students with an A grade in any subject on their report card can receive a free airplane ride. The museum even offers a number of workshops to give children, adults and families a chance to bond while learning about the history of flying.

One of the most famous items on display at the Museum of Flying is their widely celebrated Maxflight flight simulator. This simulator is about as close as a civilian—either children or adults—can get to actually experiencing flying a genuine plane. The Maxflight FS3000 allows up to two people to simulate the process of flying various aircraft in a controlled yet adrenaline pumping environment. The flight simulator is loaded with sophisticated software that can replicate the flying tendencies and characteristics of a variety of different shapes and styles of planes, from the dual propeller Grumman Goose, to the popular Lear 45 jet, to World War II single engine fighter planes including the P-51 and the F4U Corsair. The Maxflight FS3000 has a complete 360 degrees of motion and can make completely interactive and immersive 360-degree pitch and roll motions. Adding to the stimulating and captivating experience in the simulator is surround sounds and full HD video, including the capability of 3D. Flight simulations include intense air battles in warplanes with the Combat Simulator program and relaxing flights above and around a simulated Los Angeles with the Flight Simulator X program. Photo: Museum of Flying

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Hanging from the ceiling of the museum visitors will see a variety of other historic aircraft, including biplanes, jets and even a glider. The show room even includes a couple antique cars.

The Museum of Flying is home to the California Aviation Hall of Fame. Since 2010, the Hall of Fame has been recognizing and honoring people who have had a significant impact on the development of the craft of flight. The Hall includes among its honorees Dr. Buzz Aldrin, famous from the historic Apollo 11 moon landing along with Neil Armstrong.

The Museum of Flying contains on its premises its own screening room. The thirty-five seat theater is used for screening various films and documentaries geared toward the craft and history of flying, which cover among other topics the historic eras from the Wright Brothers all the way up to the modern day. The screening room is open during all open museum hours and the price of admission is included with the regular museum ticket. Programming is rotated daily offering a constantly changing menu of air and space themed educational content.

The Museum’s mezzanine also contains an authentic recreation of the Douglas Aircraft Company Executive Boardroom as well as a recreation of the office of the company’s founder, Donald W. Douglas.

The museum also hosts a variety of events and can be rented for private events. It can accommodate seating for up to 350 people for formal dining functions. It can also accommodate up to 600 people for receptions and other engagements. The museum campus can be utilized with tents for a combined indoor and outdoor event area, and can hold up to one thousand people for such events. Photo: Museum of Flying

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The Museum of Flying is easy to reach from a number of main roads in Santa Monica. The museum itself sits on the south end of the Santa Monica Airport on Airport Avenue, just a little over a quarter of a mile from South Bundy Drive. If traveling westbound on the 10 freeway, simply take the Bundy Dr South exit and the 405 freeway, National Boulevard exit. From the 405 southbound, simply take the exit to the 10 West then follow the same Bundy Drive South exit. Whichever route you decide to take, just follow the exit until you reach Airport Avenue and take a right. Follow this road until you see a large building with a Boeing 727 nose cone hanging from the front and you will know that you have arrived.

Visitors to the museum are free to explore the grounds and facilities on their own, or they can opt to take the provided guided tour. Children’s groups are even provided a docent.

The Museum of Flying is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and all sales of tickets and artwork go to support the museums operating fund.

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3100 Airport Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90405, website, Phone: Phone: 310-398-2500 Photo: Museum of Flying

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Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, Southern California