Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Photo Essay: The Planes of LAX's Flight Path Learning Center Museum

Over on the south side of Los Angeles International Airport, by the LAX Imperial Terminal, there's a former flight terminal that's been converted into a museum: The Flight Path Learning Center.



The Flight Path Museum, having just celebrated its 10th anniversary, is meant to be an educational facility to encourage kids interested in possibly pursuing a career in aviation...



...and so it's filled with plenty of small model planes, proportionate to their pint-sized visitors...



...representing past and present airlines from around the world...



...mostly of the commercial variety but some military-related...



...many of which have been donated from private collections.



Its honorary chairman is Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to ever break the sound barrier (which he did while flying the Bell X-1, an example of which you can see - for now - at The Proud Bird Restaurant).



Although Flight Path Learning Center has a pretty robust array of aviation-related collectibles, memorabilia, and ephemera, and in addition to the scale models, it has its own historic aircraft on display:



...an original Douglas DC-3 from 1941, this one formerly a TWA passenger plane. This is their only real, full-sized, formerly operational plane, and it's the pièce de résistance of the museum, parked out on the tarmac, accessible through an alarmed, locked door, accompanied by a volunteer with a set of keys.



This DC-3 was sold to Union Oil Company in 1956 for use as a corporate plane for 76 gas, rebranded "Spirit of Seventy Six."



One of the museum volunteers - a pilot himself - walked me out to the retired plane...



...warning me of its tailwheel construction...



...which gives it a dramatic slope as you try to walk on through.



The interior design - including the upholstery - seems frozen in time in the 1970s...



...though the DC-3 is such a reliable and popular plane, many of them are still in active duty even today, transporting passengers and cargo alike around the world.



This one transported executives and VIPs until it was taken out of service in 1982...



...after which it has been on display at a variety of air and space institutions...



...including the (now) California Science Center in Exposition Park, the Western Museum of Flight (now in Torrance)...



...and finally, since 2006, at the Flight Path Museum.



It's a beauty, and they let you walk (uphill) all the way up to the cockpit...



...to twiddle some knobs and fantasize about not only flying in the thing, but actually flying it.



Many plane museums rope off their static displays of planes, not letting you get very close to them at all...



...much less actually inside of them.



And no luxury, private flight would be complete...



...without a cute flight attendant to take care of your every need.



Stay tuned for more retro uniforms and fashion from a bygone era featured in the Flight Path Museum.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: LAX's New International Terminal