After keeping flight doors sealed for most of the pandemic, the Museum of Flying is back in business and inviting residents to come explore the fascinating aviation history of Santa Monica.

Located at 3100 Airport Ave, the museum is a stone’s throw from the original site of the Donald Douglas Aircraft Company and contains many planes and memorabilia from the factory, which operated in the city from 1921 to 1958.

“We have a lot of neighborhood history, a lot of aviation history,” said Steve Benesch, Museum Director. “The first airplanes to circumnavigate the world were built in Santa Monica by Douglas in 1924. Between 1930 and 1950, 90 percent of all commercial air travel was on airplanes mostly built in Santa Monica airport by the Douglas company.”

The museum brings this history to light with several interactive exhibits and almost two dozen aircrafts from a replica Wright Flyer to modern jet age planes. There is also a replica of the Douglas Aircraft Company Executive Boardroom and a recreation of the office of Chairman & Founder Donald W. Douglas.

The aircraft company played a huge role in shaping the history of Santa Monica and at the height of World War II employed around 44,000 people, which was greater than the city’s population at the time. The factory brought many people of color to the neighborhood that settled in the vibrant Black and Latino communities in the Pico and Belmar Triangle neighborhoods. According to Benesch, around 60 percent of factory workers were women participating in the workforce for the first time.

The Santa Monica Airport was also the site of the first all women’s air race in 1929, where prominent female pilots including Amelia Earthart flew from Santa Monica to Ohio. All of these aviation stories and more are on display at the airport and waiting for visitors to rediscover.

“There’s a lot of history that people who grew up here don’t even realize,” said Benesch. “I think the museum is a valuable asset to the community; not just the aviation community, but the community at large.”

The museum is historic in and of itself and was founded in 1974 by the son of Donald Douglas and second President of the Douglas Aircraft Company, Donald Douglas Jr. Over the years it has hosted many special events including a tribute to the Tuskegee Airman; galas honoring the original Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts; and a 60th anniversary celebration of the Battle of Britain. Now in its third location, the Museum of Flying holds its largest ever collection of artifacts and aircraft.

The exhibitions are suited for both children and adults and have several engaging and interactive elements. There is a museum theater and screening room for special events and educational movies as well as several aircrafts that visitors are welcome to climb into and explore.

Benesch described the area surrounding the museum as a hidden gem and said it has all the components of a perfect family day out. It has ample free parking and is adjacent to Airport Park, which has a children’s play area, soccer fields and a dog park. Benesch recommends visitors also grab a bite at the nearby Cloverfield restaurant and check out the views from the airport’s observation deck.

The museum is currently open Thursday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and tickets cost between $6 and $10. To learn more visit https://www.museumofflying.org/

Clara@smdp.com