Wednesday, February 18, 2015


     I recently had the genuine pleasure of taking my twin ten year-old boys, Tommy and David, to the Yanks Air museum adjacent to the municipal airport in Chino. I have been by it on countless occasions over the years and had always been meaning to check it out.

     I grabbed the boys before noon on the Friday the 13th before Valentines and the Presidents’ holiday weekend, as they were out of school.

     We first hit Flo’s Airport Cafe, which, if you have never been there, is a great dining experience, in a roadhouse-kinda-way. I have gone there for breakfast and lunch on several occasions and my last lunch trip there prompted me to investigate the air museum and make plans to hit both places with my kids.    Flo’s is fairly typical of most municipal airport eateries – reasonable prices, great service, friendly staff and patrons and colorful things to look at on the wall. Whenever we find ourselves on the road in an out of the way place, I have found that either local airports or local golf courses are a good bet to find  great food.

     My boys wolfed down their food, but still managed to pause in front of the incredible list of homemade pies charted on the board near the register. We bought a couple of their very cool and inexpensive T- shirts for their mom and sister (depicting a P-51, their favorite fighter, and a B-17, their favorite bomber). Mom got the B-17 shirt from her boys for Valentines.\

     The air museum, which is around the corner off of Merrill Ave, was virtually deserted and exceeded my expectations by a considerable margin. The women running the admission/gift shop area were extremely friendly and led us to the starting point of our tour after we bought tickets.

     For the entire afternoon, we were virtually the only ones in the entire museum and had the run of the place.

     What is most striking about this museum is the number of beautifully restored planes on hand. I could not believe that so many planes could fit inside of the buildings that make up the museum.
One side has propeller driven planes, including some very early biplanes and World War II fighters that make any little boy's heart pound with their proximity. These propeller planes are all flight capable and the boys arranged themselves in front of one of the only existing P-47 Thunderbolts that is still flight capable. It is a very imposing aircraft and was the fastest and biggest propeller fighter of the war.

     My boys stared in awe at a beautiful P-51, perhaps the most romanticized US fighter of the Second World War. They were close enough to touch it when one of the guys maintaining the planes
approached them and invited them to sit in the cockpit. After I took pictures of each of them in the
pilot’s seat, he let me climb up and sit there too, knowing that my fascination was essentially the same as any little boy’s for something like that. It may prove to be our only chance to ever do that and we all knew it.

     There were additional displays of gear and explanations of facts of which I certainly was not aware. There were also several very large display cases of hundreds of small model planes, which one of my boys could not get enough of.

      The staff fired up this cool aviation merry go 'round that allows the kids to control diving and climbing as they zoomed around and fired imaginary bursts from their machine guns

      The jet plane side of the museum was no less impressive and  featured an F-14; an Apache gunship and an F-18 Hornet from the Blue Angels, among many others.

     We then proceeded to the Restoration portion of the museum, where the kids got to see craftsmen painstaking restoring all kinds of planes.

     We also got to go outside where a giant  , fully restored seaplane was getting the finishing touches on a complete restoration (they do not have room for it inside).  Other planes and parts were warehouse outside, along with a beautiful C-47 paratroop plane with invasion markings.

We also got to see a fully operational Air force Constellation, as well as one of the early presidential helicopters patiently awaiting its chance to be reconstructed as a part of history.

     There is not enough space here to do justice to this jewel that I am so glad to have finally stopped

     When we got back, the boys gave their mom her Flo’s B-17 shirt and dug out the little cast iron planes from their 20 year old brother's box of old toys, which they zoomed around and used as props from which to direct an endless series of questions about tactics, nomenclature and history.  All weekend, they kept talking about how sitting in the cockpit of that P-51 was one of the coolest things that they have been able to do.

     Whether, like me, you can bring kids to camouflage your own boyish fascination for stuff like this, or you just want to go check it out, I cannot recommend this place enough.

     Go to Flo’s and go to Yanks. It is a cheap date that you will not regret.

These are the days.