Museum of Flying reopens near SMC’s Bundy campus

A Douglas A-4 Skyhawk fighter jet basks in the afternoon sun as hundreds of visitors take photos. Children press their faces up against the aircraft windows to get a glimpse of the cockpits and instrument panels inside. After being closed for nearly a decade, Santa Monica’s Museum of Flying opened its doors to a crowd of over 700 aviation enthusiasts on Saturday, Feb. 25.

The Museum of Flying is located at the Santa Monica Airport on the west side of SMC’s Bundy campus. The museum is a 22,000-square-foot facility with a wide collection of aircraft and aviation memorabilia.

Managing Director, Daniel J. Ryan, is hopeful that the museum’s close proximity to SMC will bring inquisitive students through the doors. According to Ryan, the museum aspires to be an educational asset for the community. “We hope we’re inspiring future engineers, technicians and pilots,” he said.

The museum offers displays and interactive exhibits which educate visitors on the history of Santa Monica Airport and the Douglas Aircraft Company, an aerospace manufacturer that built the first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe in 1924. “The first truly successful commercial airliner was the Douglas DC-3,” Ryan said. “It was born here.”

The museum has had a long history at the Santa Monica Airport. Financial woes forced the museum to close in 2002. Since then, the Museum of Flying non-for-profit group has raised a little over $5 million for their operations, according to the California State Department website.

So far, $4 million have been spent on development and acquisitions for the museum, according to Ryan. “We’d like to keep an extra $1 million as a kind of mini-endowment for future expansion and more acquisitions,” he says.

Funding comes from donors and admission sales. Ryan is optimistic about the future, and hopes for people to continue to support the preservation of the Santa Monica Airport and Douglas Aircraft Company history.

The museum’s proximity to Hollywood has its advantages, according to Ryan. The producers of the blockbuster movie, “Night at the Museum,” donated two replicas: a Wright Flyer and a Lockheed Vega.

The museum has a collection of two dozen aircrafts, ranging from single engine planes like the Cessna 150 to the famous BD-5 Microjet, which made an appearance in the 1983 James Bond movie, “Octopussy.”

The last Douglas DC-3, produced in 1942, is displayed on the front lawn of the Museum of Flying with the words “Spirit of Santa Monica” written in red across the white fuselage. It was Donald Douglas’ personal plane before it was donated to the city of Santa Monica by the Museum.

Ryan is currently preparing for the upcoming weekend’s crowds. Final changes are being made to the nose section of a Boeing 727, a plane donated by FedEx in October 2009, according to the Museum of Flying’s website.

Students receive 20% discounted admission at $8. The museum opens Friday through Sunday from 10a.m. to 5p.m.