The Palm Springs Air Museum is celebrating a significant milestone with a major addition to its fleet, showing just how important the organization has become to the multiple communities it serves.
The arrival of a Boeing B-17G, converted in the 1980s to represent an “F” model and used in the movie “Memphis Belle,” was celebrated Saturday, as the crew flying the “Movie Memphis Belle” (MMB) aircraft landed safely and was immediately doused with champagne.
Saturday’s event marked the latest arrival of a series of historic aircraft now at the museum, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Combined, more than 75 static and airworthy historic aircraft — commonly referred to as warbirds — are on display at the museum. Some are available for rides.
It also marked a significant moment for the organization, whose founder, Bob Pond, was a driving force in the warbird community. Pond passed away in 2007, but his vision of expanding the museum’s flying fleet never faded.
“We took that vision seriously,” wrote Museum Vice Chairman Fred Bell in a statement Sunday. “Our challenge was that while it’s a clear goal – the details were not that simple. We had to ‘get the band back together’ and form a new team of folks that would get us there.
“It was fitting that a few days after our Twenty-Fifth Birthday, the B-17 ‘the Movie’ Memphis Belle has joined us as we continue our journey of flight to support Bob’s vision.”
Today, the museum is recognized as one of the finest of its type, welcoming thousands of visitors annually to see the warbirds and learn world history in four climate-controlled hangars totaling 86,000 square feet, and an additional 40,000 square feet outside on the tarmac.
“We began simply enough with a Stearman,” Bell said. “Over time, we got used to handling aircraft movement. The next step was to bring back Bunny, our P-51. Things got more complex, but we forged forward. Each aircraft brought new challenges and rewards. We added riders to the planes and event flyovers.
“In a way, we have returned to where we started all those years ago flying multiple aircraft to inspire future generations in the magic of flight and the wonder of what can be.”
The aircraft was previously located at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York, where it resided starting in 2016. While there, the plane underwent four propeller overhauls, two engine overhauls, and countless hours of additional maintenance and upkeep. The original Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, known as Memphis Belle, is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
The motion picture Memphis Belle is a fictionalization of the 1944 documentary Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress by director William Wyler, about the 25th and last mission of an American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber based in England during World War II.
Plans for the aircraft in Palm Springs, including whether it continues to fly, are still being evaluated and will be announced at a future date.
More information: The Palm Springs Air Museum is located at 745 North Gene Autry Trail and is open every day from 10 AM until 5 PM, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Complete details on admissions, programs and more, can be found here.