Air travel has changed dramatically over the past century, and with families regularly jet-setting around the world, airports and airplanes may almost ho-hum to many. But in the early part of the last century, few people traveled for pleasure, and planes were more often than not used for military purposes. And that’s why a visit by Rancho Mirage visitors and residents to the Palm Springs Air Museum can be such an eye-opening experience.

The museum—whose mission is to “exhibit, educate, and honor” World War II combat aircraft and the pilots and American citizens who played a part in this rich period of history—has been open to the public since Veterans Day 1996. Located on Gene Autry Trail (on the “back side” of Palm Springs International Airport and adjacent to the main runway), this 89,000-square-foot, climate-controlled facility houses up to 50 flyable aircraft, with an outdoor tarmac displaying even more planes and giving museum visitors the opportunity to watch today’s commercial aircraft come and go. Multiple photo and video exhibits are scattered throughout the four large hangers, along with aircraft scale models, maps detailing military war strategies, and an extensive research library.

Another of the fascinating features of the Air Museum is the opportunity to actually FLY in one of these air-worthy vintage airplanes. Check the website often for details as to the aircraft, dates, and times when the many non-profit owners in the U.S. bring their planes to Palm Springs. For example, lucky enthusiasts were given the chance to experience a flight on a rare B-17 bomber (one of the 12 left in the world still flying—out of over 12,000 that were built) through Sunday, April 30. I was one of those people, and I have to say it was the thrill of a lifetime!

The museum is very family friendly and “hands-on,” and especially enjoyable to those with a strong connection and affection for this era of aircraft and history.

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