Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting
This vast dry plain in the mountains strains the meaning of the term "museum." It's really a slowly aging assemblage of retired aircraft appended to a working local airfield. The Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting is promoted as "dedicated to educating people about the several types of aircraft and retardant systems that have evolved over the years."
In the museum office, a friendly receptionist hands you a brochure for the self-guided tour, points out the donations box, and suggests only that you don't climb into the aircraft. Exiting the office you find yourself on the tarmac, the bustle of maintenance crews going on all around.
There are no signs of a museum, with displays, as you wander past vast bays and hangars. No signs, no roped off areas. After years of tightened airport security, it just seems wrong.
According to the literature the museum includes "dozens of the last remaining examples of WW II bombers, numerous types of helicopters and the KC-97, the world's largest air tanker," and "four of the last flying PB4Y-2 planes used against the Japanese in the South Pacific." On permanent loan from the USFS are C-119s and a C-45, and other loan items include a C-82, A-2 Invader, C-97 Stratotanker, L-18 Lodestar, and a 1928 Monocoupe 70.
Okay, but where?
Then you spot them, shimmering in the heat - a row of giant firefighting prop planes arrayed a half mile away between runways. There is no explanation of the various planes, though many seem to be retired from National Air Guard wings elsewhere in the US and Canada.
While all the aircraft flew in here under their own power, it is evident that most will never take off again. The functional planes are not part of the "museum," and were all off fighting a fire the day we visited.
We dodge swarms of fire ants, and wander up and down the flightline. Hawkins & Powers Aviation run the place, and some of the rare planes are impressive. If you know which ones those might be. A few other wandering tourists are swallowed up by the vast flat area and large planes. They seem as confused as we are.
Note: The museum has future plans, when funding is raised, for an indoor collection display. Currently, an "authentic pioneer cabin" has been placed at the airport to operate as the museum's entrance and gift shop.