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Aug/Sept 2000

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Green River, UT
Flying to Seldom Used Airports
Planning Makes a Difference
Dream Plane
The Spartan Executive
The $100 Hamburger
The Flight Deck Restaurant, North Las Vegas, NV
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Flying in the High Country
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SW Aviator Magazine
3909 Central NE
Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: 505.256.7031
Fax: 505.256.3172
The Air Museum "Planes of Fame"
Grand Canyon, AZ
story by Paul Bradley, photos by Lani Muche and Gerrit Paulsen

Thanks to dedicated enthusiasts and organizations across the country, the warbirds of yesteryear are still gracing the skies over America. One of the foremost and earliest of these organizations is The Air Museum, also known worldwide as the "Planes of Fame." Begun in 1957 by warbird pioneer Ed Maloney, The Air Museum has long been famous at Chino, CA. Now Southwest air enthusiasts can visit with some of the museum’s vast collection at Valle Airport, near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Located at Grand Canyon-Valle Airport, an old TWA base and the former "official" Grand Canyon Airport, the museum has been open since May 1995. The Grand Canyon Air Museum houses a fascinating collection of over 20 aircraft, many of which are rare or unique, in one hanger and an outdoor park. The museum’s new display building, which is nearing completion, will have twice the area of the current hanger, enabling more aircraft to be displayed under cover. This expansion project will be completed by the summer of 2000.

The pride of the collection is a Lockheed C-121A, the military version of the famous Constellation airliner of the forties and fifties. This particular aircraft, built in 1949, has a long and distinguished history, starting with service during the Berlin Airlift in 1949-50.

Following the end of the airlift, the aircraft was fitted with a deluxe interior for service as a VIP transport. Issued to General Douglas MacArthur, the plane was called the "Bataan," after the infamous Bataan Death March which troops under MacArthur had endured in 1942. MacArthur used the Bataan during the Korean War, when he was Supreme Commander of Allied Powers. This airplane was used to carry the General to his famous meeting with President Truman on Wake Island, and was the aircraft which bore him to the United States after his dismissal by Truman for making political statements about the conduct of the war. Bataan was then used by Generals Ridgeway and Clark, before long service as the personal transport of the ranking Army General in the Pacific until 1966.
Retired by the Air Force in 1966, the Bataan was stripped of her interior and flown to the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson. Later acquired by NASA, the airplane was fitted with computers and telemetry equipment and used in support of the Apollo moon program. Retired once again upon the draw down of the space program, the Bataan was flown to Fort Rucker for display at the Museum of Army Flying. The aircraft was kept on outdoor display there, and was acquired in poor shape by The Air Museum in the early 1990's. Thoroughly restored to flying condition, the aircraft was flown to Texas for the fitting of a recreated VIP interior, and arrived in Arizona in April 1995.

The Bataan now accurately represents the days when the Constellation was the "Queen of the Skies." Visitors to the museum can take a guided tour of the interior of this historic aircraft.

Another of the museum's rare exhibits is a genuine 1929 Ford 5-AT Trimotor, one of just three still flying in the world. Although the plane looks like it was built with leftover corrugated tin roofing, the Trimotor was a revolutionary design in its day. Built by the Ford Motor Company, the Trimotor introduced new standards of luxury and speed, with rudimentary cabin seating and sound-proofing. The aircraft on display at the Air Museum Grand Canyon was originally a demonstrator ship for Ford, and was at one time fitted with massive floats for operations from water. Later, the airplane served with various airlines in Central America, returning to the US in the sixties for promotional work with TWA.

This Ford Trimotor was one of two used by Scenic Airlines for tourist flights over the Grand Canyon until new Federal noise regulations forced its retirement. Now owned by Grand Canyon Airlines, the aircraft is regularly flown by The Air Museum and was recently completely refurbished.

The "Planes of Fame" museum is probably best known for its vintage fighter aircraft collection, and the Grand Canyon museum is home to a number of these classics. The P-51A on display is one of the oldest Mustangs still flying, and was one of the first aircraft rescued by Mr. Maloney in 1957. The F-86A outside the hanger is an actual Korean War veteran, having been one of the first seven F-86's to be based in Korea back in December 1950.

The Messerschmitt Bf109G-10 was captured in Germany at the end of World War II. The aircraft was operated by II. Gruppe of JG52 and was flown from its base on the Eastern Front to surrender to the American forces near Munich in May 1945. The subsequent poor treatment of German fighter pilots by the Russians explains this move. The aircraft was one of three Bfl09G's brought to the US for evaluation, and was another of Mr. Maloney's early acquisitions.

During World War II, the United States alone produced more than three hundred thousand military aircraft. When the war ended, most of these airplanes were scrapped at vast disposal centers, such as once existed at Kingman, AZ. The situation was even worse for captured aircraft, like the Messerschmitt, and only a very few have survived through to today.

Fortunately, Mr. Maloney realized what was happening and began a personal campaign to rescue endangered aircraft types from the scrap heap. His first airplane was a Me163 rocket fighter, which was being used as a playground toy! When the aircraft collection outgrew his backyard, Maloney obtained a makeshift facility in Claremont, California and began to exhibit to the public with the name "The Air Museum." Opening its doors on January 12, 1957, this was the first permanent collection of aircraft west of the Rockies. Now based at historic Chino Airport, California, the collection has grown to approximately 140 rare and historic aircraft, many of which are capable of flying. The museum's philosophy is to put aircraft in their natural element - the sky.

With such a vast collection, The Air Museum needed to expand. The opportunity arose to open a new facility at the newly reopened Grand Canyon-Valle Airport through the graces of airport’s owner, John Seibold. The new hangar building opening this summer is the beginning of an ambitious expansion program. The new hangar will provide cover for more aircraft and displays, expand office and storage space, and house an enlarged gift shop. The museum is hoping that funds will be raised to add a theater and educational facilities in the near future. As a non-profit organization, The Air Museum is always happy to receive gifts and donations to carry on their work of preserving our aviation heritage.

The Planes of Fame is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. Admission for the self-guided tour of the museum is $5.00 for adults and $1.95 for children, the guided tour of the Bataan interior is an additional $3.00 per person. Call (520) 635-1000 for more details, or visit J

Paul Bradley has been a volunteer at the Air Museum since August 1995. He is currently researching the history of the "Bataan" for a possible book project. He lives in Flagstaff, AZ, with his wife and two Shelties.

Valle Airport

Visiting The Air Museum Grand Canyon is an easy flight from anywhere in the Southwest, and is a great day trip or overnight destination. This is also a pleasant enroute stop when passing through Northern Arizona. The museum is on-field at the fully refurbished Valle Airport (40G). Valle (pronounced "valley" by the locals) is located 18 nautical miles south of the busy Grand Canyon Airport, and lies well outside the Grand Canyon Special Flight Rules Area (GCN SFRA).
Runway 01-19 (4262 feet) is freshly paved, the intersecting gravel runway 14-32 is closed. If landing on 19 (right traffic), consider planning your touchdown and roll-out so as to make the midfield taxiway turnoff to the ramp area, since the parallel taxiway from departure end of 19 back to the midfield taxiway is still gravel.
Field elevation is 6002 feet with pattern altitude at 6800 feet. Density altitude is a significant factor at Valle, especially in the summer when afternoon temperatures routinely soar well into the 90 degree range. Winds tend to be strong here on the high desert plains, and favor runway 19. Call Unicom 122.8 for airport advisories, or check the Grand Canyon ATIS on 124.3 for nearby winds and altimeter setting.
The Planes of Fame museum entrance is through the gift shop in the spacious, pleasant passenger terminal. The terminal also houses the FBO desk and ground transportation. Food and lodging are conveniently located across the street from the airport at the family owned Grand Canyon Inn (800-635-9203 or 520-635-9203). Camping is available adjacent to the airport at the funky Flintstone’s Bedrock City theme park (520-635-2600). Rental cars can be arranged with advance reservations through Enterprise at 520-638-2871. Call the airport at 520-635-5280 or for more info., visit

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publishing, Inc. and the staff neither assume any responsibilty for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising out of it. Fly safe.