Project Police on the Road (Again)

Russ Erb

Originally published November 1992

Chino Planes of Fames Museum
Flo's Airport Cafe
Flabob International Airport
Summary of Raid

On the weekend of 10-11 October 1992, my wife and I were looking for an excuse to go "down below" to visit some friends and do some shopping. This seemed like a good opportunity to check out some much talked about aviation landmarks in the Riverside CA area: the Chino Planes of Fame Museum, Flo's Airport Cafe, and Flabob airport. This is my report on what we found.

Chino Planes of Fame Museum

This is an interesting museum in that it is not a typical museum in the sense of the National Air & Space Museum, the Air Force Museum, or even the Santa Monica Museum of Flying. The primary difference, besides being in the middle of an airport flight line, is that the primary thrust of the museum is that it is a flying museum, and the restoration work is not hidden from the general public. The museum is geographically split into two museums, the Planes of Fame (Props) and Fighter Jets. Admission is $4.95 for either half or $7.95 for both.

I'll basically take you through the museum the way that we saw it. After paying admission, the first order of business, considering having driven from Huntington Beach with a pregnant copilot, was to find the rest rooms. They're way in the back of Hangar #3. In the hallway to the rest rooms were several stills from famous aviation movies (such as Twelve O'Clock High and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo). Coming back into the hangar we found a rather interesting exhibit. Behind glass were instrument panels of several aircraft, such as the P-38, P-40, P-47, P-51, YP-59 Airacomet, and a few others.

This is the general aviation hangar, and they had some aircraft that we would instantly recognize. This included a VariEze, a Quickie II, a Bede BD5B, and a Benson Gyrocopter. Also included is the Ricter RJ-4 Jet, which had a Mazda engine driving a ducted fan. This was only a R&D bird which apparently didn't last long. Also in this room was a L-13A Grasshopper with its wings folded, a Culver Cadet, and a Yak 18. Have you ever heard of a "Bat" Missile? It was an unpowered anti-ship glide bomb from the Pacific Theater of WWII, also on display.

Throughout the hangar in display cases were literally over a thousand airplane models of all types, old aircraft instruments, and even remains of the YB-49 that crashed, leading to the naming of our illustrious base. They also had one room dedicated to air racing with a couple of race planes.

In the main yard of the museum were parts of the P-59 Airacomet that the museum is restoring. Originally they had hoped to have it ready for the 50th anniversary of Jet Flight on 2 Oct 92, but as projects always slide to the right, they didn't make it. They have a couple of examples of the A-26 Invader, a DeHavilland DH. 100 Vampire, a T-6, a red T-33 that carried the marking of a pace plane for air racing, and a B-25 with "Photo Fanny" nose art. You'll have to watch the video to understand that one. In the shop they were working on a P-51. Somewhere they are also working on restoring the Northrop N9M flying wing.

Moving into Hangar #1 we found the majority of the flying aircraft owned by the museum. This part looked more like a crowded hangar than a museum. Dominating the entrance was a beautifully restored P-63 King Cobra. Right next to it was a P-38, identified as belonging to Josie Pond. Yes, that's Pond. Is it any wonder that right next to this twin-boomed fighter was a twin-boomed race plane, the Pond Racer. Also in this hangar was a P-51D, a P-51A, an F6F-5 (how convenient that Navy planes come with folding wings in this crowded hangar), SBD-5, TBM-3, P-40N, P-47G, and a F4U-1. There were also two unusual airplanes in here. One was a Russian AN-2 Colt, a rather large biplane. The other was the Super Corsair racer. This airplane has the fuselage of an F4U-1, a wing from an F4U-4, a wing from an F4U-5, the prop of a A1-H Skyraider, the cowling of an A-26 Invader, the spinner from a Vickers Varsity, and the oil cooler from a S2F Tracker. The engine is a R-4360 from a C-124 Globemaster at 4000 HP, with 28 cylinders in 4 rows.

Back out in the yard was a rather heavy looking "aircraft" (a Sherman Tank), an F-84, an F7F Tigercat, an a C-45 (Twin Beech). A BT-13 that was converted into a Japanese Val replica for "Tora, Tora, Tora" was on display. Some other strange aircraft took the shape of a WWII jeep with trailer and a couple of WWII trucks.

Entering Hangar #2 was a salute to Japanese aircraft of WWII with several cases of artifacts. This hangar actually looked more like you would expect a museum to look like. Aircraft included a A6M5 Zero, a J2M3 Raiden, and a J8M-1 Shusui. This last one was a Japanese built version of the ME-163 Komet rocket fighter. Continuing the trend of "enemy" aircraft, several German aircraft were on display, to include two BF-109G (one of which is flyable), a Fokker D.VII, a HE-162 Volksjager (another of Hitler's Jet-Powered last ditch efforts), and the Horton 4 Flying Wing (a high aspect ratio glider). Early era aircraft on display were a Boeing F4B4/P-12E, a P-26A, a PT-17 (Stearman), a Chanute Hang Glider, a Bristol F2B, and a Hanriot HD-1 Scout. There were also a few more WWII aircraft, including a P-39N, a FM2 (F4F), and a Seversky 2PA (export version of the P-35).

However, probably the most interesting airplanes in this hangar are the air racing replicas, the likes of which I have not seen anywhere else. This included four Schnieder Cup (seaplanes) winners, the Depardussin Racer (1923), the Curtiss R3C-2 (1925, Jimmy Doolittle's plane), the Macchi M-39 (1926), and the Supermarine S-6B (1931, forerunner of the Spitfire).

Next in line is an aircraft you've probably already seen, Disney Studios GeeBee Model Z, the yellow and black Gee Bee in the opening sequences of "The Rocketeer." Yes, it is an actual airplane that actually flies. Also on display is the 8-Ball racer (also used in "The Rocketeer") and the Rider R-4 (Tony LeVier's "Firecracker").

Exiting back through the Gift Shop, feel free to stop and spend some money. Genuinely Interesting Videos: I found some videos here that were very intriguing. I bought one titled "How To Fly the P-38." It consists of old Army training flicks on video. The first was a Lockheed flick on P-38 flight characteristics. This was all I expected, but they also included a flick called "Reconnaissance Pilot" about the F-5 (Recce version of the P-38) and the importance of recce, a flick about Dick Bong, and a few more flicks I haven't gotten through yet. It was a lot more than I expected for $29.95. Don't let the low-budget appearance of the tape fool you. Other titles included How To Fly the B-17/P-51/P-40/etc. If you're curious, you can write to Seminar Publishers, 210 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

Back out in the parking lot is the fuselage of the B-50 "Lucky Lady II," the first aircraft to fly around the world nonstop with aerial refueling. Also there is a B-17 you can pay your money and crawl through. We didn't bother since I had already seen the Collings Foundation's B-17.

You may notice that I didn't mention any thing about the Fighter Jets part of the museum. We didn't tour it, since I had heard from someone else that the airplanes were not yet restored and looked pretty bad. The ones that were outside were nothing worth taking pictures of. You decide if you think it's worth the extra three bucks.

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Flo's Airport Cafe

Flo's is on the premises of the Chino Airport. For you frequent readers of Pacific Flyer, you will recall that Flo's won the reader's contest for best airport restaurant. We tried the standard cheeseburger and fries, and found them to be quite good. Of course, there were a lot of other things on the menu, including breakfast. The best part of the lunch was that the burgers and fries were cheaper than at the Fox Field cafe. Fly or drive in and try it yourself! Be sure to check out the Pacific Flyer plaque next to the door on your way out.

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Flabob International Airport

Yes, it's the world-famous Riverside Flabob airport, home of Ray Stits and EAA Chapter 1. Driving into Flabob is like going through a time warp back to the '50s. Our primary objective for this Project Police raid was to find the DeHavilland DH.88 Comet replica that was under construction as reported in Sport Aviation. Note this is a scratch built replica, not a restoration. Properly attired in my EAA Chapter 1000 Tshirt, we found said aircraft in a hangar labeled "Repeat Aviation." It's down at the end of the back row of hangars, so search around for it.

The DH.88 was an all-wood twin-engined airplane, and we saw the fuselage and wing under construction. Our timing was off, as all of the guys who were working on the aircraft were down in San Diego doing something, so we couldn't really interrogate anyone about the construction. The one gentleman who was there was a typical EAAer. It took a while to get him talking, but about the time we were ready to go, he was just getting warmed up and wanted to keep talking.

The wing is partially complete, sitting upside down with the upper wing surface on the ribs and spars. The skin is constructed by what the Brits called "planking", laminating with thin strips of plywood about 4 inches wide, layed on at approximately 45 degrees to the spar. The strips in each layer are perpendicular to the previous layer. There is an incredible amount of work here, and if you are building a wood airplane (Bob, Jim!) or are interested in wood construction you need to see this project. It is on a larger scale than most of us normally would tackle, and the workmanship is excellent.

Be sure to check out the large bulletin board with lots of pictures. These include pictures of the construction of the original DH.88 and pictures of a previously built replica.

If you're hesitant about just barging into somebody's hangar and saying "Hey, I'd like to see your project" (I'm not sure that we have anyone like that in our chapter!), don't be. These people welcome visitors and want you to come. Just be sure to sign their guest book. They are trying to maintain a museum status, which "helps us out with the County Tax Assessor."

The DH.88 Comet is not the only thing these guys are up to. These guys built the Disney Studios Gee Bee Model Z mentioned above. Also in the hangar was an immaculate Stinson, which I think was the one on display at Camarillo with the matching RC model next to it.

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Summary of Raid

If you get a chance to spend a day being an airport bum, driving to the Riverside/Chino area is well worth the trip. Of course, you can always fly in, if your radios are up to navigating around the Ontario ARSA.

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Revised -- 22 February 1997