Although World War I was primarily a ground war, aircraft played a key role as bombers and reconnaissance planes. A typical military aircraft was this French Spad 15, which can be seen in the Air Park.
After WW1 aviation’s focus was record setting and racing. Among the many daredevils were Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh.
Early pilots became national heroes. Charles Lindbergh (1902–1974) became instantly famous when he flew from New York across the Atlantic Ocean to Paris in 1927—the world’s first solo nonstop transatlantic flight. “Lucky Lindy” attended high school in Redondo Beach, but his flying career really took off when he joined the Army.
Amelia Earhart (1897–1937) flew alone across the Atlantic in 1932, the first woman to do so. Earhart moved to LA to be a Hollywood stunt pilot. She began her planned trip around the world from California, but tragically disappeared somewhere over the Pacific in 1937.
X-1 Experimental Rocket Plane Bell Aircraft. It was in use from 1945-1947 and reached top speeds of 1,000 mph. Drop launched from the bomb bay of a B-29, the X-1, piloted by Captain Chuck Yeager, famously proved that a rocket engine-powered aircraft could travel faster than sound. The Bell X-1 was a secret supersonic research project built by Bell Aircraft in 1945. It was the first aircraft built to exceed the speed of sound in controlled, level flights. The aircraft was built to exceed the speed of sound in controlled, level flight. The aircraft was shaped to resemble a “bullet with wings.
Launched from the bomb bay of a modified B-29 flown by Major Robert Cardenas, retired, the X-1 first reached Mach 1.06 (807.2 mph) in October 1947. The Captain Chuck Yeager was the Army Airforce pilot who ultimately successfully flew the aircraft, creating a huge supersonic bomb over the Mojave Desert that announced the beginning of a new era of flight. Both men retired from the Airforce as Brigadiers General.
Transport aircraft were developed in the 1920’s but passengers didn’t start flying in large numbers until Douglas Aircraft rolled out the DC-3 at their Santa Monica factory in 1936. With 28 seats in an aluminum skin, it quickly enabled investors to form passenger airlines. The DC-3 did yeoman service in WW2 as a C-47 flying ammunition, food and fuel from India to China. They dropped paratroops in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944. See a former Western Airlines DC-3 in the Air Park.
DC-3 – The Douglas DC-3, which made air travel popular and airline profits possible, is universally recognized as the greatest transport airplane of its time On D Day (the military version C-47) was used to drop paratroopers into Normandy. Ours is painted in the markings of Western Airlines.
WHEN WORLD WAR II ENDED, AEROSPACE FOR CIVILIAN USE TOOK OFF. Now airliners could fly above the weather thanks to pressurization. Speeds and range improved with the introduction
of turbo-jet engines on the Lockheed Electra to spin the propellers. In 1958 Boeing introduced its first jet airliner the B-707, followed in 1970 with the wide body B-747, which could hold up to 600 passengers.
Concorde, capture distinctive nose shape. The supersonic Concorde, introduced in 1969, could fly at 1,354 mph, more than twice the speed of sound, and carry up to 128 passengers. Built collaboratively by the British and French, it proved to be uneconomical and was retired in 2003.
Wood used to manufacture the Hughes Flying Boat, the largest aircraft ever constructed made entirely of wood.
The Hughes Flying Boat was known as the “Spruce Goose” and flew only once. This piece of aviation history is signed by Hughes Aircraft personnel, some of whom flew on the aircraft with Howard Hughes on its historic flight over Long Beach harbor on November 7, 1947.
When World War II broke out in 1939, all airplanes had propellers and flew at less than 300 mph. By war’s end jets were topping 500 mph. Iconic aircraft produced during the war included the Supermarine Spitfire, Mustang, Focke-Wulf and Zero fighters, and Flying Fortress, Liberator, and Junkers bombers.
WW2 saw aircraft join warships and tanks as major weapons. Bombers pounded enemy positions in Europe and Asia, relying on fighters like the P-51 to drive off Nazi fighters. Among the most effective fighters was the P-51 Mustang, especially those flown by the Tuskegee Airmen, an all African-American unit, whose red-tail struck fear in enemy hearts. You can see a Mustang on a pedestal at the main entrance.
Proud Bird’s Suit of Armor (beloved artifact from the original Proud Bird) was installed at the restaurant in 1967 by founder David Tallichet. The armor was originally part of the decor in the Ivanhoe Room at the historic Long Beach LaFayette Hotel and Lanai.