All In The Family
In 1957, Ed Maloney started the Planes of Fame Air Museum with the purchase of six dilapidated WWII aircraft destined for the scrap yard. As a young man, Ed’s passion for model making flourished and now after many years has matured to encompass two locations and an amazing collection of over 150 aircraft. Embracing the philosophy that these aircraft should be a part of “living history,” about forty of these beautiful and rare aircraft are not only preserved, but kept flying. Not bad for what had originally started out as a small family run business.
This fully restored and often flying F-86 Sabre jet was built in 1952 at the North American Plant in Inglewood, CA. This is the type of jet that was flown in the Korean War. This aircraft originally served with the USAF for a few years until she was sold to Argentina where she served for another twenty years. Being sold to a private collector, she returned to America around 1975, and was donated to the museum around 1995. Since then this jet has undergone a restoration from the ground up and is once again airworthy.
The photograph we created was shot at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, CA. Three generations of the family are involved in the operations of the museum to this day, with Ed the original founder, his son-in-law Steve is currently the sitting president and demonstration pilot, (this Sabre jet is his personal favorite, and he flies it often for air shows etc.) along with Ed’s grandson Steven who is also active in flight operations of the museum. Interestingly, the pilot on the wing (Steven) is the pilot that flies the museums P-51 for air shows and demonstrations etc. Being the grand son of the founder he had his first airplane ride with his dad at two weeks old and started flying un-officially from the time when he was six.
Having grown up with aircraft his whole life it’s maybe not totally surprising that he is the youngest pilot to compete in the Reno air races in Nevada. In 2008 he flew “Sparky” and for the coming season will be piloting one of the four most powerful piston engine aircraft in the world- “Strega” a 3800 H.P. highly modified P-51 in the unlimited category.
When I asked Steven if it is a bit much to be flying such a powerful and temperamental machine when he is so very young, only 21 years old (nothing personal I did add.) He observed that- “During the start when all the aircraft are rounding the first few pylons, they tend to stack up, different pilots jockeying for position, and it does get a bit interesting. Remember that during the war, there were nineteen-year-old kids flying these aircraft into battle and fighting for their lives. That he flies in air races is nothing compared to that.”
The mechanic on the left is Cory O’Bryan who was introduced to aircraft mechanics at the age of six by his grandfather, who was himself an aircraft mechanic during the Korean War and actually worked on the F-86 while in country all those years ago. The fact that Cory works on several of the museums vintage F-86’s these days is beautiful I think. At the young age of only 29, he has a lifetime of experience with aircraft, mechanics, restorations, rebuilding and scratch builds. Cory has been associated with the museum from the time he was twelve; having volunteered after school and on weekends, and now works on virtually all of the museums aircraft.
For people my age, and everybody else that remembers this beautiful vintage jet, I think this shot we made together is a nice tribute to the individuals who originally built, flew, and maintained these aircraft to this day.
On a less serious note regarding the creation of this photo, when I finally returned home around midnight after a long day of shooting with Steven, Cory and Andrea (the museum director who arranged everything), my wife burst into laughter. “You have your shirt on inside-out!” she howled. A couple weeks later when delivering prints to Andrea and the rest of the guys at the museum I asked about that oddity, did they notice it at the time? Andrea explained that, “Well, as a matter of fact we did. We all discussed it and decided to not mention anything to you at the time, during the shooting you seemed a bit…taut”.
I hope after everything is said and done, remembering the original vision of Ed Maloney, founder of the museum, the perseverance of his son-in-law Steve the current president, the piloting skills of Steven the grandson, and the creativity, talent and passion of Cory the mechanic, after remembering all that, I hope I’m not just remembered as the guy who wore his shirt inside out.