Marines Air Museum Could Land at OC Great Park in Irvine

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

After more than 20 years in another location, the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum may be coming in for a landing near its original home in Irvine.

The museum honoring the Marines’ aviation history was created in 1989 at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. When the base closed 10 years later, the museum was moved about 100 miles south to MCAS Miramar, said Mike Aguilar, a retired Marine brigadier general and the executive director of the museum’s nonprofit foundation.

The planes and other artifacts displayed at the museum are owned by the Marine Corps, which closed the San Diego-area museum in April because of budget constraints, Aguilar said.

Now foundation officials are in talks with Irvine about finding the museum a new home in the Orange County Great Park, which sits on land in Irvine that was part of the former El Toro base.

A significant portion of the Great Park is designated for civic and cultural uses, and the Marines have a history on the land as well, so “this museum both from the historical standpoint as well as the cultural standpoint would fit right in,” Irvine Interim City Manager Marianna Marysheva said.

The city and the museum foundation signed an agreement last month that gives them two years to study the possibility of moving the museum’s collection to the Great Park, potentially retrofitting old airplane hangars on the property for the purpose.

Marysheva said officials want to learn whether the hangars are suitable, and what it would cost to set up and run the relocated museum. The city is also in the midst of exploring what could go in several other intact hangars, such as a library or cultural center.

Aguilar said the musem’s more than 30,000-item collection includes paintings, training equipment, aircraft engines, log books, memorabilia from the earliest significant Marine aviators, flight suits, artifacts from the Korean and Vietnam wars – and more than 40 planes and helicopters, among which is the Lady Ace 09, a tandem rotor aircraft that carried the U.S. ambassador out of Vietnam at the fall of Saigon.

(File photo courtesy of Martin Hargrave)

Category: Orange County Great Park, Irvine