Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream I Airplane Returns to Palm Springs Straight from D23 Expo 2022

Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream I Airplane Returns to Palm Springs Straight from D23 Expo 2022

The historic plane will be celebrated October 15th, 2022 as it joins the Palm Springs Air Museum’s aircraft on display

Palm Springs, Calif. – September 8, 2022 – Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream I plane will journey from D23 Expo 2022 in Anaheim to Palm Springs, California where it will be celebrated mid-October when it is displayed alongside the Palm Springs Air Museum collection. In addition, a new exhibit will be constructed at the Museum and open on Walt Disney’s birthday, December 5, 2022. This new exhibit will highlight the history of the plane—also known affectionately as “The Mouse”— and showcase its significance to The Walt Disney Company’s history and its relevance to the Palm Springs Area. “We are so happy to have Walt’s plane make a ‘landing’ at the Palm Springs Air Museum, just a few miles from where Walt and his family had vacation homes at Smoke Tree Ranch,” said Walt Disney Archives director Rebecca Cline of the plane, which will be on long-term loan to the Museum. “It is the ideal setting for this incredible icon”

The newly repainted plane with updated wing edges and windows will be on view along with rarely exhibited items from the aircraft’s interior, including a customized instrument panel originally located near Walt’s favorite onboard seat that allowed him to monitor flight conditions; a telephone handset that gave Walt a direct line of communication to the pilot in the cockpit; a flight bag featuring an image of Mickey Mouse sitting on the tail of the iconic plane; and more. Walt’s plane returned to the West Coast for the first time since October 8, 1992, when the plane landed on World Drive near Orlando, Florida, at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios), where it resided as a part of the Studio Backlot Tour until 2014. The recent exterior repaint and finishing work, along with the cross-country move of the aircraft, was made possible thanks to collaboration and support from Walt Disney Imagineering.

In 1963, Walt acquired the iconic Gulfstream that would come to be known as “The Mouse.” The interior of the plane, initially designed with creative input from Walt and his wife, Lillian, seated up to 15 passengers and included a galley kitchen, two restrooms, two couches, a desk, and nods to the mouse who started it all, including matchbooks and stationery adorned with a silhouette of Mickey Mouse. Mickey’s initials were eventually included in the tail number of the plane, too, as N234MM, in 1967. Throughout its 28 years of service to The Walt Disney Company, the plane flew 20,000 hours and transported an estimated 83,000 passengers before it was grounded.

When they visit the Palm Spring Air Museum, guests will have the opportunity to learn about the role this iconic plane has played throughout the company’s history:

  • In 1963, Walt, members of his family, and company executives took off on a demonstration Gulfstream aircraft to explore potential locations, including Central Florida, for a proposed development often referred to as “Project X.” After Walt received his own Gulfstream in early 1964, he made several trips to Florida that ultimately laid the foundation to bring the magic of Walt Disney World to life.
  • Walt’s plane flew a total of 277,282 miles back and forth between Burbank and New York to oversee preparations before and during the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair, an event that brought iconic attractions such as “it’s a small world” to an East Coast audience and, later, to Disneyland.
  • The plane also took Disneyland to new heights as Walt found inspiration for the look of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction as he flew over the El Moro fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while conducting research for the now fan favorite.
  • “The Mouse” has a star-studded past, having been used for promotional tours for Disneyland as well as for classic movies such as The Jungle Book (1967), as well as making appearances in The Walt Disney Studios films The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) and Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972), both of which starred Disney Legend Kurt Russell, who has ties to the Desert. The aircraft has also transported notable guests including Disney Legends Julie Andrews and Annette Funicello, as well as former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, also frequent visitors to the Palm Springs area.
  • Painted blue and white in 1985, Walt’s plane embarked on goodwill tours and character visits to children’s hospitals, adding to the company’s history of giving back to the community.

About Palm Springs Air Museum


The Palm Springs Air Museum is a living history museum that contains over 75 vintage airframes from the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, across spectrum of Military Aviation, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the F-117 Stealth Fighter inside the new Jim Houston Pavilion, to significant civilian aircraft like Clay Lacey’s Lear 24.  Many of the aircraft are airworthy and flown regularly. The planes are housed inside 91,000 square feet of open hangars and on the tarmac at our ten-acre facility. Additional displays and memorabilia are located throughout the hangars. The Museum is open daily from 10 am until 5 PM. Kids 12 and under get in free with paid adult admission. Warbird rides are also available. For more info, visit PalmSpringsAirMuseum.org or call 760-778-6262 during business hours.

About the Walt Disney Archives

For more than 50 years, the Walt Disney Archives has carefully safeguarded the most treasured items from The Walt Disney Company’s history, including original scripts, movie props and costumes, Walt Disney’s correspondence and script notes, theme park artifacts, merchandise, millions of archival photographs, and many of Walt’s personal effects. Founded by Disney Legend Dave Smith in 1970, the Walt Disney Archives is a vital resource for every part of Disney, as well as an important research center for Disney scholars, researchers, and writers. The Archives also shares its countless pieces with Disney fans everywhere through its exhibitions and close association with D23: The Official Disney Fan Club.   

The Palm Springs Air Museum is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to Preserve, Educate and Honor. 

PALM SPRINGS AIR MUSEUM

745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92262

(760) 778-6262 / www.PalmSpringsAirMuseum.org

 

PRESS CONTACT:

Ann Greer – (323) 363-8243
ann@palmspringsairmuseum.org
Palm Springs Air Museum

 

Jeffrey R. Epstein (818) 560-8125

Jeffrey.R.Epstein@Disney.com

The Walt Disney Company

           

Elvis and the Learjet – Part Three

Five years quickly passed by since the wedding of Elvis and Priscilla Presley in Vegas. Lisa Marie was born on February 1, 1968. Now it is the end of April 1973 and all is not bliss.
 
Clay Lacy answers the phone, it’s Elvis requesting Clay to fly the Presley’s from Palm Springs to Santa Monica the following day, April 30. Since the wedding/honeymoon flight in 1967, Elvis had been using Clay and his Learjet, N464CL to frequently fly them around the USA.
 
Midmorning on the 30th, Clay touches down with the Learjet at Palm Springs Airport. At the arranged time, Elvis shows up with Lisa Marie in tow, along with a few of Elvis’ entourage, but no Priscilla. Elvis mentions that Priscilla should be arriving soon.
 
Clay and Elvis pass the time chitchatting while leaning on the Learjet’s port (left) wing tip tank. The five-year-old Lisa Marie passes the time running rings around Elvis and Clay slowly widening her circles until she is doing laps around the entire Learjet.
 
After about 45 minutes, Elvis sends one of his guys to retrieve Priscilla. Soon afterward, Priscilla shows up and they all pile into the awaiting Learjet and make the flight to Santa Monica.
 
Once the plane landed, the Presley’s and their entourage climbed out of the jet and into waiting limos. But one of Elvis’s guys needed to fly to Van Nuys with Clay and the Learjet. During the brief flight from Santa Monica to Van Nuys, this fellow came forward to the cockpit, leaned over to Clay and said, “Did you notice that everyone was a little somber?” Clay glanced over at the guy and said, “Yeah, what’s going on!” The guys responded, “Well, they are getting divorced tomorrow!”
 
So, Learjet 24A, N464CL, became the Elvis divorce jet and it is in the Palm Springs Air Museum collection.
Elvis and Priscilla in Frank Sinatra’s Learjet heading to Palm Springs for their honeymoon May 1, 1967.
Elvis and Priscilla in Frank Sinatra’s Learjet heading to Palm Springs for their honeymoon May 1, 1967.

Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit – Warbird Wednesday Episode #129

Welcome to Warbird Wednesday! Today we are visiting an intriguing heavy strategic bomber, the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber. The B-2 is a flying wing design with only a crew of two. Designed during the Cold War, this subsonic bomber was built to deploy conventional and thermonuclear weapons, including eighty 500-pound guided bombs or sixteen 2,400-pound nuclear bombs. Due to the cost of maintaining and flying the Stealth Bomber, there were only 21 aircrafts built and they are not used as often.

Elvis and the Learjet – Part Two

In the early morning of May 1, 1967, Elvis and Priscilla were issued a marriage license at the Las Vegas Courthouse. Just before 10:00 AM, the couple was officially married at the Aladdin Hotel and Casino with just 14 guests in attendance. The entire ceremony took a mere 18 minutes. This was followed by the reception with approximately 100 of their closest friends and a five-foot-tall, six-tier wedding cake.

By this time, the word was getting out about the wedding and fans were showing up in mass. It was time to get the Presleys out of the Aladdin and back to McCarran Airport for their escape. When they arrived, the jets were ready to go. The newlyweds climbed back aboard Frank Sinatra’s Learjet and they were off to Palm Springs for their honeymoon.

Over the next several years, Elvis and Priscilla made regular use of the Learjets. Clay Lacy Aviation at Van Nuys Airport supplied the Learjets to the Presleys as well as several other Hollywood elites. If Sinatra wasn’t using his Learjet, it would be loaned out to other celebrities. If it wasn’t available, its hangar mate, N464CL, another early Learjet, would be used. Clay would often do the piloting himself using his staff of copilots.

It wouldn’t be until 1975 that Elvis bought his own jets – a large Convair 880 named “Lisa Marie” and a smaller Lockheed JetStar II named “Hound Dog.” (Hound Dogs pilot was named Milo High, I kid you not!) Both of these jets can be seen at Graceland.

 
Elvis and Priscilla Presley in front of Learjet

General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark – Warbird Wednesday Episode #128

Welcome to Warbird Wednesday! Today we are visiting another strategic bomber aircraft, the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. The F-111 was produced in the 1960s, pioneering several technologies, including variable swept wings, afterburning turbofan engines and automated terrain-following radar. It was able to carry several bombs, as well as one nuclear weapon. In fact, it dropped 80% of the bombs in the Gulf War. Its name Aardvark was given due to its similarities to the animal, like the long nose and ground-hugging capabilities. The F-111 was retired in 1996.

Elvis and the Learjet – Part One

Elvis and the Learjet – As told to Stan Stokes by Clay Lacy Part One
 
On May 1, 1967, Elvis Presley and Pricilla Beaulieu were married in Las Vegas at the Aladdin Hotel.
 
They had started the trip just after midnight at Elvis’s Palm Springs home. In an effort to evade the press and the fans, the small Presley wedding party had climbed over the backyard wall and into awaiting cars that whisked them to the Palm Springs Airport to fly to Las Vegas for the wedding nuptials.
 
Frank Sinatra and Elvis had become close friends, so Sinatra had offered the use of his Learjet to transport the couple from Palm Springs to Las Vegas and then return back to the “Springs” for their honeymoon.
 
Sinatra’s Learjet was a first-generation Learjet 23 (N175FS). It had been named Christina II after Sinatra’s youngest daughter. It was based at Clay Lacy Aviation at Van Nuys Airport, but that morning, it was conveniently with Sinatra in Palm Springs and ready to fly to Vegas.
 
Because the Learjet 23 could only carry six passengers, a second chartered aircraft took the rest of the wedding party to Las Vegas. Elvis had also flown Priscilla’s parents in for the wedding. The entire wedding party totaled just 14 people plus Elvis and Priscilla.
 
So in 1967, the most stylish transportation to and from a wedding had just become the Learjet!
 
Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra looking cool with Frank’s Learjet.
Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra looking cool with Frank’s Learjet.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer – Warbird Wednesday Episode #127

Welcome to Warbird Wednesday! Today we are paying a visit to one of the three strategic bombers serving in the US Air Force, the Rockwell B-1B Lancer. This supersonic bomber features a variable-sweep wing, the ability to fly low near terrain and can reach up to Mach 1.25. This aircraft was a result of the SLAB (Subsonic Low Altitude Bomber) Program in the 1960s, seeking to replace the B-58 Hustler. The B-1B was first flown in 1974 and is projected to be flown until 2036.

Turner and Briggs

Andrew Turner enlisted into the US Army on October 8, 1942 as a member of class 42-I-SE at Tuskegee, Alabama. He received his wings and was inducted into the US Army Air Force on October 9, 1942.

He deployed into WWII with the 100th Fighter Squadron. After a mission in which the 100th’s commanding officer, Lt. Robert Tresville, failed to return, Turner assumed command of the 100th. He flew the P-51 Mustang for 69 combat missions before the war ended.

Two years after the war had ended, Major Andrew Turner was killed in a mid-air collision while flying a P-47 Thunderbolt.

Major Andrew Turner
Major Andrew Turner

John Briggs was a cadet in flight training at Tuskegee in class 43-E-SE. He was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant and flew combat missions out of Italy as a member of the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group.

During WWII, he flew 125 combat missions in the P-39 Bell Airacobra. This is where he escorted Navy ships to the Italian Anzio Beachhead and strafed ground targets; 70 combat missions in the P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang, strafing German airfields and escorting B-17 and B-24 bombers to their targets in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. He also downed a Messerschmitt ME-109 German fighter aircraft.

Major John Briggs died in June 2007 at the age of 86.

Major John Briggs
Major John Briggs

“Skipper’s Darling III”
In Stokes’ painting of the two pilots, the aircraft is Turner’s P-51C Mustang, “Skipper’s Darling III.” The P-51C was a great aircraft. When it was upgraded into the P-51D, it became arguably the best all-around fighter of WWII.

 

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress – Warbird Wednesday #126

Welcome to Warbird Wednesday! Today we are visiting an aircraft that is still in use today, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. This subsonic, jet-powered strategic/nuclear bomber was first produced in 1952 and was just approved to continue to fly until 2050. Some key features that make this aircraft stand out are its ability to carry 70,000 pounds of ordinance, its combat range of 8,800 miles without aerial refueling at a maximum speed of 650 miles per hour. The B-52 proved lethal to group troops and targets as well with conventional bombs & cruise missiles in both the Vietnam and Gulf Wars.

Tuskegee’s First Five

Tuskegee’s first five cadets to receive their wings and become official US Army Air Force pilots were in Class 42C-SE. This group of black pilots completed their pilot training on March 6, 1942, at Tuskegee Army Air Field, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Of the 13 original cadets, five graduated: Charles DeBow Jr., Benjamin O. Davis Jr., George “Spanky” Roberts, Mac Ross, and Lemuel Custis.
 
2nd Lieutenant Charles DeBow, Jr. was assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron and deployed to North Africa. There, the 99th pilots flew the P-40F Warhawk. Later, when the 332nd Fighter Group was deployed to Italy, the 99th was reassigned to the group. Now flying the P-51 Mustang, DeBow flew 51 combat missions.
 
Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. had already been an officer in the US Army for several years having graduated from West Point. He became the commanding officer of the 332nd Fighter Group and much later would be promoted all the way to four-star general.
 
2nd Lieutenant George “Spanky” Roberts would become Davis’ second in command of the 332nd Fighter Group. On the occasions that Davis would have to go back to Washington D.C. Roberts would step in to be the CO of the 332nd. He flew more than 100 combat missions. After the integration of the armed forces in 1948, Roberts became the first African American officer to command a racially integrated unit.
 
2nd Lieutenant Mac Ross was the first commanding officer of the 100th Fighter Squadron. He was then assigned the position of Group Operations Officer for the 332nd FG. He was the first of all of the Tuskegee-trained pilots to have to bail out of a stricken airplane (P-40 Warhawk). He completed more than 50 combat missions before losing his life in an accident flying a P-51 Mustang.
 
2nd Lieutenant Lemuel Custis flew 92 combat missions in the P-40 while assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism. He later returned to Tuskegee as an advanced flight instructor and was released from active military service from the U.S. Army Air Force in 1946 as a major.
 
Left to Right - Benjamin O. Davis, Lemuel Curtis, George “Spanky” Roberts, Charles DeBow, and Mac Ross.
Left to Right – Benjamin O. Davis, Lemuel Curtis, George “Spanky” Roberts, Charles DeBow, and Mac Ross.
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