Palm Spring International Airport is better off because of the presence of the Air Museum [Opinion]
PALM SPRINGS — The amazing Palm Springs Air Museum will soon celebrate 25 years of aviation memories. It is a place one can meet those who flew, crewed, or maintained historic war birds.
Long before the museum took flight, Mr. Bob Pond had built a collection of World War II aircraft. Collections like these war birds were scattered across our nation. Pond would move all his aircraft to Palm Springs.
Bob Pond’s planes did something that almost all the others didn’t do — they were all in flying condition. Yes, most of them were in better-than-new condition.
When fellow airport commissioners John G. Dunkin and Mort Gubin invited me to a small museum office in downtown Palm Springs, the museum was just a dream but it was going to take flight come hell or high water.
Gubin a medical doctor and Flight Medical Examiner, along with John Dunkin, a retired Navy Captain, who flew A-4’s during the Vietnam War, were part of the driving force behind the museum with Bob Pond.
The two arranged a visit to the Pond Hanger at Palm Springs International Airport and a meeting with Mr. Pond, who was a former Naval Aviator. To say the least, it was an eye opener and helped get another vote for the Air Museum.
The Airport Commission staff expressed opposition to the plan to allow the museum to be built on vacant land on the east side of the field.
One of the many reasons given: The air museum would be an incompatible use. That’s correct “an incompatible use.”
Airport Commissioners from Indio, La Quinta, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, and two from Palm Springs didn’t see it that way.
Staff politely warned the commissioners that its vote was “just advisory“ and that the Palm Springs City Council and mayor could overturn the vote.
The Federal Aviation Administration wasn’t keen on the idea either. It initially agreed with staff that the use was “incompatible.”
Fortunately, Congressman Sony Bono didn’t agree with staffers at the FAA or Palm Springs Airport and Bono opened doors at the FAA in Washington, D.C. Nothing like a celebrity and member of Congress to plead your case.
The case for the air museum was a strong one. These aircraft flew and were part of the reason America and her allies won World War ll.
Aircraft from all theaters of operations would be on display and would be staffed by volunteers who flew them or maintained them.
Commissioners, many Veterans or aviation enthusiasts, were ready to push back on staff, City Council and the mayor — if that’s what it would take.
The Air Museum would be a great benefit to the airport, represented a major capital investment, would be a draw for tourists, students, and would be one more place to celebrate the aviation and military history of our nation.
Commissioners stood tall and when the final vote came, the museum was approved without a single vote in opposition.
The “advisory“ commissioners did what was right for the entire region and approved the proposed Palm Springs Air Museum.
Duncan and Gubin, as the Palm Springs appointees, weren’t swayed by staffers who were “nattering nabobs of negativism.” These two were not afraid to do what was right even when it wasn’t popular with staffers.
Today, the Palm Springs Air Museum is an amazing testament to the vision and patriotism of Bob Pond. He saw to it that his personal resources were used to preserve our nation’s military history.
The museum has expanded its collection and plays a key role in educating our students about the history of aviation, the heroes of the greatest generation, and is one of the major tourist draws in Riverside County.
Palm Spring International Airport is better off because of the presence of the Air Museum. It is also a fitting tribute to the airport’s military history as she served as one of many air fields of World War ll.
If you are looking for a first-class attraction along the lines of quality of the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. or it’s Virginia Annex make sure you visit the air museum. History is presented in a manner that honors the women and men who flew and maintained these amazing war birds.
If you catch a vintage war bird flying over the Coachella Valley it’s likely part of the Palm Springs Air Museum collection. Special ceremonies are also held at the museum to honor Veterans multiple times each year.
If you can please purchase a ticket or make a donation to the Palm Springs Air Museum and keep history alive please do so. You will be glad you did.
The war birds made it possible for America and her allies to “Fly, Fight, and Win.”
- Palm Springs Museum: Shutterstock